This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
Only those who were in the situation knew how much power there was in gossip—for example, the civil officials that were being attacked right now.
In reality, as civil officials, admonishing the emperor to take consorts was not something that looked good to begin with. No matter the reason or how well they spoke, they could not escape the bad reputation of urging the emperor to give in to his lust.
The empress dowager and the empress could say for the emperor to take concubines, but the officials could not. In history, there had been strong officials that forced the emperor to take consorts. How was he recorded in the history books in the end? There was one situation when the emperor wanted to take consorts, but could not directly say so to the people. Thus he would find a close official to pretend to admonish him, then he would go along and fill his inner palace.
The emperor took consorts in two cases—one was if the ruler was weak and the officials strong, and the other was that he had his own thoughts. If both situations did not occur, yet the subject thought the emperor wanted consorts, going up to admonish him, that official thought his reputation was too good and wanted to stain himself.
Of course, a smart person like Li Guang Ji knew to throw the blame on the empress, but the key was the emperor was not happy for the empress to take the blame. If the emperor was not a coward, who could openly do something that he did not agree with?
If the fuss continued, if the eyes of others, that was the subjects having crooked thoughts.
Originally, when the matter started, some people thought it was not good for the emperor to favor just the empress. But when the news spread that certain imperial censors were lusty and did not respect their wives, the onlookers changed their thoughts. They felt that these scholars looked upright, but were in fact wretched inside.
The scholars were immediately unhappy. Many people came out to say that imperial censors like these were the black sheep. In reality, most scholars were upright and knowledgeable, the examples of gentlemen. To express their positions, they started to strictly criticize these imperial censors. Some people even wrote letters together, saying that these people had no virtue or ability. They were not qualified to be officials, and most scholars disdained to be in the same group as them.
Most of the officials in court right now were left behind from the time of the previous emperor. From the empress dowager to the people, everyone knew what kind of emperor the previous emperor was. They could not go against their conscience and say that he was good. After Jin Yang started to govern on his own, he started to subtly change the structure of the court. The Sima Family had settled and were willing to take a step back, so Jin Yang’s control of the court had grown more.
Now, as the scholars righteously criticized certain officials, Jin Yang went with the flow, dismissing some of the worst officials and demoting some of the officials that were involved in the matter. His strong actions were applauded by the scholars and the people. Then the scholars wrote many poems praising his accomplishments, saying that he was not lusty, that he cared for the people, that he had virtue and good character. In any case, he had the good traits that the previous emperor did not have, and he did not have the bad traits that the previous emperor did have.
There was only one theme in these praises: It was so good for Great Feng to have such an emperor. We the people of Great Feng love you, kisses and hugs.
The matter grew so large that even the Li Family was affected slightly. Fortunately, they were an aristocratic family with a longstanding inheritance, and they usually did things that generated goodwill for them, so they were not affected too terribly. But even so, there were still people who said behind their backs that the Li Family were hypocrites.
The Li family members were very angry at hearing this but had to pretend to be ignorant.
“Father.” Li Huai Gu walked into the room, and bowed to Li Guang Ji. “You were looking for me?”
“First sit down to speak.” Li Guang Ji was standing with his back to him as he looked at the painting of mountains and rivers hanging on the wall. He said with a serious expression, “How do you feel the emperor treats the Li Family?”
“Father, what do you mean?” Li Huai Gu’s expression changed slightly. He looked at Li Guang Ji’s back and felt slightly anxious.
“Have you seen the outcome of the Sima Family?” Li Guang Ji turned to his son. “Sima Hong is ill and bedridden, the first and second branches do not dare to come out. The third branch has no heir. The emperor only gave the first branch the title of a Senior Commandant of the Light Chariots.” He sighed at this. “The Sima Family is the emperor’s maternal family and turned out like this, much less our Li Family.”
Li Huai Gu was silent. His view was not the same as Li Guang Ji’s. In his view, the Sima Family ended up like this because they were too greedy. If the Li Family was loyal to the emperor, how could they end up the same as the Sima Family?
“Why do you not speak?” Li Guang Ji saw his son with his head down, and said with slight displeasure, “Do you have any doubts?”
“Father, this son thinks that we are different from the Sima Family. The Sima Family is the emperor’s maternal family, but when the emperor was still in the establishment of Prince Cheng, they never helped him. Therefore the emperor treats them so coldly,” Li Huai Gu said. “Even more importantly, this son thinks the emperor values talents very much. As long as we work loyally for the emperor…”
“Even if we are willing to show loyalty, will the emperor believe it?!” Li Guang Ji interrupted Li Huai Gu’s words. “You are still too young and ignorant—go back and think more.”
“Father, are you planning to work together with the Prince of Rui?” Li Huai Gu said urgently. “If so, our family will end up rebels.”
“Didn’t the ancestral emperor get the throne because we, the aristocratic families, pushed him up there?” Li Guang Ji said coldly. “Only those who do not succeed are called rebels and traitors. If we succeed, that is called merit of the dragon.”
“The emperor is a benevolent one. Father, please think more.”
“History is written by the winners. After a hundred years, who will know if he was a good emperor or a bad one?” Li Guang Ji said angrily. “You are like this—you are as sentimental as a woman.” At this, he suddenly frowned. “Or are you still reluctant to part with that Gu daughter?”
Li Huai Gu frowned. “Father, this son has long forgotten these past matters. Why do you have to mention them again?”
“Since you do not care, then why try to stop this?” Li Guang Ji waved his hand. “You may leave. I know what to do.”
“Yes.” Li Huai Gu helplessly left his father’s study. He felt restless and irritated. He unknowingly walked to the courtyard where his mother lived.
“Young Master.” The matron at the door saw him and bowed to him.
“Is Mother present?” Li Huai Gu gazed inside. He saw the door was tightly closed and there was no sense of life.
A matron walked out with a smile. Li Huai Gu recognized that this person served his mother and patiently asked again.
“Unfortunately, Mistress is not feeling well, and has gone to sleep,” the matron said in apology. “How about coming back later?”
“Since Mother is resting, then I will not disturb her.” Li Huai Gu glanced up at the noon sun and left the courtyard with a dark face. Ever since his younger sister passed away, Mother did not like leaving the courtyard, and he rarely saw his mother in private.
He grimaced, and turned back to his own courtyard.
After the noon nap, Gu Ru Jiu got out of her bed. She rubbed her forehead, and had the palace maids come in to serve her.
She sat in front of the copper mirror after changing clothes. Her hair had not yet been combed when she heard a bang from behind her. Bao Lu was kneeling on the ground. Gu Ru Jiu’s hand paused. She said without turning around, “Bao Lu, what are you doing?”
“Your Majesty, please listen to this servant’s words.” Bao Lu kowtowed to her with a pale face. “This servant has kept these words inside for a long time.”
Qiu Luo saw the situation was not right, and waved a hand for the other attendants to leave, in case Bao Lu said something inappropriate and embarrassed the empress. The other attendants were relieved and quickly left the room.
“What do you need to say that you have to do it at this time?” Gu Ru Jiu picked up an eyebrow pencil, gently drawing her brows. Then she looked at herself in the mirror. She found her eyes were a bit cold. She blinked her eyes and concealed the emotions in her eyes.
“Your Majesty, please stop.” Bao Lu’s voice trembled in terror and nervousness. “Do not do these things again.”
Her eyebrow pencil left marks on her eyebrows, so they looked even brighter. After drawing her brows, Gu Ru Jiu put down the pencil and slowly said, “Why should this palace stop?”
Bao Lu bit her lower lip and said with red-rimmed eyes, “This servant worries that if you continue, you will cause the emperor’s displeasure. What will you do then?”
“Are you worried for this palace?” Gu Ru Jiu turned to look at Bao Lu. She saw the other wore a light green dress, and her face was pale. She said with a smile, “Bao Lu, how long have you been with me?”
Bao Lu stilled for a moment, and answered, “This servant has been with you for six years.”
“Since you have served me closely for six years, you should know that you should not have said what you did today.” Gu Ru Jiu looked at the clothes that Bao Lu had modified. She sighed. “You are not young anymore. This palace should not have taken you here to start with.”
“Your Majesty.” The tears in Bao Lu’s eyes finally fell. “You dislike this servant and want this servant to go?”
Gu Ru Jiu looked silently at her and stroked the silver hairpins in her hair.
“Your Majesty…” Bai Xian was standing outside, and wanted to speak. But His Majesty raised a hand and he swallowed his next words. He looked at the palace maid kneeling in the room and at the silent empress, worried that she would say something she should not.
Jin Yang stood at the doorway. He saw Jiu Jiu sit there silently. He felt distressed for her, and did not know if he should go in or not at this time. He knew that his mind was not right, but he indulged in his thoughts.
After a long silence, Gu Ru Jiu stood up. Her long dress dragged on the ground with a rustling sound. “Bao Lu, this palace does not need a person who decides on her own.”
“Your Majesty.” Bao Lu went forward on her knees, wanting to pull on Gu Ru Jiu’s dress. But when she saw the grand patterns on the dress, she pulled her hands back. “Your Majesty, even if you dislike this servant, this servant does not want you to lose your original mind, and become someone that His Majesty dislikes.”
“You really just hope that His Majesty does not dislike this palace?” Gu Ru Jiu looked into Bao Lu’s eyes. Bao Lu did not dare to meet her gaze that seemed to see through her and looked down.
“Ha.” Gu Ru Jiu laughed softly. She lifted her chin slightly. “You do not understand—in front of some people, I am not willing to act in a play.”
“But he is the emperor!” Bao Lu bit the corner of her lips. “He is the noblest man in the world.”
“So?” Gu Ru Jiu sneered. “So you have thoughts that you should not have?”
“This servant does not, this servant does not dare.” Bao Lu wavered where she knelt, and shook her head again and again.
“This palace does not care if you have such thoughts.” Gu Ru Jiu slowly walked in front of Bao Lu, bending down and raising the other’s chin. She looked into Bao Lu’s eyes. “In any case, the noblest man in the world is my husband, and has nothing to do with you.”
Bao Lu looked at Gu Ru Jiu’s smile. A wave of coldness shot from the bottom of her feet into her heart. Endless terror filled her body, and she unconsciously trembled.
She saw killing intent.
Memories flashed through her mind, the scenes like soundless pictures. In each one, Gu Ru Jiu was smiling, without an exception.
She suddenly realized—the empress had not changed. It was she who never knew the empress to start with. She wanted to kowtow to admit her crime. But the empress was holding her chin. She did not dare to move. Time seemed to freeze.
“Nevermind.” Gu Ru Jiu pulled her hand back and sighed. “Based on our past, since you are not suited to live in the palace, you will leave the palace.”
“Your Majesty…” Bao Lu’s eyes widened. When she looked at Gu Ru Jiu, the killing intent in her eyes had disappeared like it never existed.
“Qiu Luo, help her pack up. Have her leave the palace today.” Gu Ru Jiu turned to the doorway, away from Bao Lu. She found that Jin Yang had already been standing there from some unknown time.
She pressed her lips together and did not speak.
“This servant greets Your Majesty.” Qiu Luo had not expected His Majesty to appear silently at the doorway. She hurriedly bowed to the other and then glared at Bao Lu. If not for her causing all this trouble, His Majesty would not have seen this today.
“You may all leave.” Gu Ru Jiu glanced at Bao Lu and spoke expressionlessly.
Bao Lu kowtowed three times to Gu Ru Jiu before she stood up trembling. She did not dare to look at Jin Yang at the door, and hurriedly followed behind Qiu Luo.
After leaving everyone’s sight, Qiu Luo suddenly stopped walking. She turned and slapped Bao Lu hard. Because of the force, her breathing was not steady.
The crisp slap echoed in the hallway. Even the sound of the cicadas disappeared.
Bao Lu covered her face, her eyes red. She did not look at Qiu Luo, just sobbed.
“Shameless!” Qiu Luo gritted out through her teeth. She did not look at Bao Lu as she turned and walked away.
Bao Lu looked tearily at Qiu Luo’s back. She choked out, “I also do not want to. But…” His Majesty was so good, and was so considerate towards Her Majesty. Many times, she could not help but think, how good would it be if she was Her Majesty?
She also knew that such thoughts were not right, but she could not stop them. In the end, she started to dislike the empress for not being good enough to His Majesty, not considerate enough, and even not worthy of how well His Majesty treated her.
“I do not want to hear of your helplessness. I am not interested in your thoughts.” Qiu Luo turned back and said without emotion, “I am not the same as you. There is nothing left to say between us.”
Bao Lu looked dazedly at Qiu Luo, and then crouched down, starting to sob aloud.
Bai Xian and He Ming looked on and trembled at the situation. They could not leave or advance. They could only bury their heads, and try to lower the sense of their existence.
“Withdraw.” Jin Yang waved a hand for everyone to leave.
Gu Ru Jiu saw him walk towards her. She did not speak and the mood in the room was slightly awkward. Regarding Gu Ru Jiu, she really did not want Jin Yang to see what he had just seen.
The door silently closed. The room immediately dimmed. Other than the sound of the cicadas, there was only silence.
Suddenly, her hand was held. The warmth moved from her fingertips to her heart.
“Not in a good mood?” Jin Yang smiled at her and reached to touch the flower decal on her forehead. “So beautiful.”
“Yes, a certain person is so charming, even my personal servants have other thoughts.” Gu Ru Jiu poked his chest with a finger. “Pity that I am so jealous that I cannot help you.”
Jin Yang saw her like this, his thoughts moved, and he could not help but pull her into his arms. “I am very happy when I see you like this.”
The person in his arms did not move. He gently stroked her back, and placed her to sit on his knee. He gave a low laugh. “Jiu Jiu is willing to do all this for me. I feel as though I am very important to you.”
“Hmph.” Gu Ru Jiu snorted in his arms.
Hearing the light snort, he felt that even his heart was tickled.
Two hours later, Jin Yang looked at Gu Ru Jiu who was sleeping on the bed. He sat up and grabbed his underwear that had been thrown to the side. He put on his robe and got out of the bed.
He lightly put on his clothes. He looked back and saw that Gu Ru Jiu was still sleeping deeply. He bent down and lightly kissed her forehead before leaving the room with loose hair.
“Your Majesty.” Bai Xian and He Ming saw Jin Yang come out, his expression radiant with happiness and his hair loose. They lowered their volume. He Ming was faster and said, “Your Majesty, Prime Minister Li asks for a meeting.”
“Why is he here at this time?” Jin Yang looked at the sun that was about to reach its apex. He frowned. “Does not see.”
He Ming glanced at Bai Xian out of the corner of his eyes and indicated for him to speak. Bai Xian gritted his teeth inside. But seeing He Ming eagerly go forward to help His Majesty tie up his hair, he could only go out into the hot sun.
Seeing Li Guang Ji standing under the shade of a tree, Bai Xian politely went and bowed. “Official Li, you have waited long.”
Li Guang Ji glanced towards Purple Imperial Hall. “Bai Gonggong, does His Majesty have time to see me now?”
“His Majesty is preparing to eat right now. Official Li, please return.” Ever since he was ignored by the emperor for half a year after taking bribes from the Sima Family, he did not dare to get too close to these aristocratic families. Facing Li Guang Ji, he only maintained his politeness, but was not very close.
“If that is the case, then this official will bid farewell.” Li Guang Ji’s expression was cool as he turned to leave.
Bai Xian smiled as he looked at the other’s back, and swung the whisk in his hand.
After leaving the imperial palace and entering the carriage, Li Guang Ji’s expression finally darkened. His Majesty was preparing to eat. In fact, the emperor just did not want to see him.
The matter of taking consorts changed flavor when it reached the people. It became him, the Prime Minister, leading the other officials in forcing the emperor to take concubines. The emperor used this chance and managed to move several officials from the Li party from key positions to departments for retirement. Some were completely demoted, and even their descendants were affected.
This time, he entered the palace wanting to beg for mercy for these officials. But the emperor was not willing to even see him.
The prime minister asked to meet the emperor, but the emperor avoided him. When this reached the court, who would not know that the emperor did not trust him, the prime minister?
“Just an immature boy—lawless.” Li Guang Ji cursed inside, and smashed a jade pendant hanging from his waist.
The carriage driver heard the noise inside, and bowed his head expressionlessly. He whipped the horses.
But at this time, a woman suddenly ran out from the side of the road. He pulled on the reins, but the horse still touched the woman.
Li Guang Ji, sitting in the carriage, was irritated by the violent shaking. But he always maintained his gentle and polite stance in public. So before he lifted the curtain, he forced down the fire inside.
“What happened?” Li Guang Ji’s gaze swept to the ground, and he saw a young girl lying on the ground. Because of the hot weather, the other wore thin clothes, and showed half of a snowy white arm.
As a man, when seeing such a beautiful scene, even if he was discontent, he would become a bit satisfied. Li Guang Ji was a normal man, and he had all the bad habits that other men did. The only thing he did better was he was better at covering up.
So he got off the carriage. He did not reach out to hold the girl, but politely asked, “Miss, are you fine?”
“Official, please forgive me. This lowly woman did not intend to offend Official. But my mother is ill, and I startled the horse in my urgency.” The girl on the ground climbed up. She covered her wounded arm, and apologized with undisguised fear on her face.
Li Guang Ji then noticed the herbs scattered on the ground that gave off a bitter smell under the hot sun.
At this time, the trembling girl looked up, a pair of teary eyes entering his sight.
Gu Ru Jiu felt she was prodded awake by intense hunger. She lay on the bed, and saw the shadows outside her window were long. She did not know if she should bathe first or eat first.
“Your Majesty, you are awake?” Qiu Luo heard noise from the bed, and came in with a fragrant porridge. Then she whispered, “Eat first.”
Gu Ru Jiu pulled on the blanket, and found that she was wearing clean underclothes. She coughed dryly. She did not know when Chenjun had dressed her.
She sat cross-legged on the bed, and finished the porridge. She wiped her mouth and asked, “Has Bao Lu left?”
Qiu Luo held the bowl and said with a conflicted expression, “Your Majesty, this servant did not send her out of the palace.”
“She is not willing to leave?” Gu Ru Jiu got out of the bed and walked behind the screen wearing her outer robe. There was a steaming bath there.
She took off her clothes, and stepped on a stool to enter the bathtub. Then she gave a relaxed sigh.
“Your Majesty, just now, He Ming took Bao Lu away.” Qiu Luo saw faint red marks on the empress’s shoulders and collarbone. She flushed slightly and moved her gaze away.