This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
“Why are you here?” Dowager Consort Sun looked coldly at Dowager Consort Qian who walked in openly. “Nonsense.”
“Am I speaking nonsense, or are you thinking nonsense?” Dowager Consort Qian did not care about Dowager Consort Sun’s hostile attitude. She walked to a chair and sat down. Raising an eyebrow, she said, “I know what you are thinking. Originally, I did not plan to be involved, but this does not mean that I am willing to be dragged down by you.”
“I drag you down?” Dowager Consort Sun said coldly. “In these years in the palace, you have had everything going your way, and benefited from all sides. Who is able to drag you down?”
“Look at what you have said.” Dowager Consort Qian snorted. “There is no meaning in mentioning past matters.” At this, her smile faded. She looked at Dowager Consort Sun with some sympathy in her gaze. “The empress dowager and the empress have decided to send us dowager consorts to Jingan Palace. I have thought it through. This place is not much better than Jingan Palace. There is no difference for us consorts where we live.”
Dowager Consort Sun stilled. She looked suspiciously at Dowager Consort Qian, not knowing if the other was acting or sincere. At the start, the one who had been most unwilling was Qian shi. So why was she the first one to think it through?
Women of the previous emperor like them did not have many feelings between them, but did have a lot of grudges. For example, back when Wei shi had been favored, she had tormented old members of the palace like her. So after the previous emperor died, they treated Wei shi so.
But as time passed, the desire to get revenge for past grudges would fade. Women like them, for the interests of their families, for a man like the previous emperor, schemed endlessly, but in the end, they still received such a cold end.
“You think so clearly.” Dowager Consort Sun spoke after a moment of silence. “You came today to say this to me?”
“No matter what, you and I have known each other for nearly twenty years. I do not want to watch you jump into a hole, so I came to warn you.” Dowager Consort Qian stood up. She wiped the corner of her mouth and said, “Do not get together with Prince Rui. This man has ambitions too great. Thinking too much is of no benefit to you.”
Dowager Consort Sun looked at Dowager Consort Qian and did not speak.
Seeing her like this, Dowager Consort Qian did not want to persuade her more. She left behind a “do as you want” and then left.
“Dowager Consort.” The person serving Dowager Consort Sun saw that she did not have a good expression. She hurriedly supported the dowager consort and asked carefully, “Are you fine?”
“I am fine.” Dowager Consort Sun expressionlessly shook her head. “Who is the eunuch watching the door today? He was negligent in his duties, and will be punished by twenty blows.” What was the use in a doorwatching eunuch who did not stop Qian shi or come to report?
“Yes.” Her personal palace maid changed expression and bowed her head to acknowledge.
Not long after Dowager Consort Qian left, she heard that Dowager Consort Sun had punished the person watching the door. She smiled in scorn, and then had the palace servants pack up her bags.
Since going to Linan Palace was a decided matter, she would rather think how to live comfortably there, and not waste unnecessary effort.
But one had to admit that the empress was someone with a good fate for the emperor to do this for her. Even though she was jealous and felt hate, she could not obtain this.
When she first learned that Dowager Consort Sun wanted to use Yang Liu to get close to the emperor, she had meddled as well because she wanted to watch the liveliness. But the emperor did not look at the beauty even once. He felt no pity, and made her kneel by the path, waiting for the empress to discover her.
If the previous emperor had had even half this composure, the inner palace would not have had such vicious fights back then.
Prince Zhong was not in a good mood because he had been refused at the Gu Family’s gates. In his view, the Gu Family was only a lower second-rank aristocratic family who produced an empress. Yet just based on the connection to the empress, they dared to look down on him. They were hateful.
With anger inside, Prince Zhong disliked the Gu Family, and was even discontent with the empress he had never met before. Thinking how there were no consorts in the inner palace except for the empress, he had some faint idea. But the idea was not easy to accomplish, so he just thought about it.
After resting for a night, Principle Zhong bathed and changed the next morning, and went with bags of gifts and his son and daughter to the palace. He had heard long ago that Prince Rui reached the capital two days before him. But the other entered the palace alone, without his children.
So he came with his son and daughter. He thought that he showed more sincerity than Prince Rui.
From Vermillion Bird Gate to Qiankun Palace, the palace attendants and eunuchs that he encountered along the way were very polite. He said in satisfaction to his son, “The people of the palace have better sight.”
Jin Hong knew that his father-prince’s words were a complaint against the Gu Family, so he did not reply. But his sister, standing next to him, nodded and said, ” Father-Prince is right.”
Right? Jin Hong felt slightly tired. Right now, the empress was in charge of the inner palace. Were these palace attendants not polite to them because the empress was good at management?
But he could only think such thoughts, and not speak them. Otherwise, his father would scold him angrily.
Today, Jin Yang did not hold a court session. The officials knew that his birthday was soon, and none came to trouble him. This caused Jin Yang to be at leisure in the last few days.
He held a book, copied Gu Ru Jiu by making a pot of good tea and putting up a few stacks of pastries, and then leaned against the couch like a cat in the sun.
Seeing him like this, Gu Ru Jiu wanted to tease him. So she stretched a hand from the soft couch, covered his eyes, and said softly by his ear, “The book is so interesting?”
“Not as attractive to me as you are.” Jin Yang put the book to the side, and pulled Gu Ru Jiu into his arms. He tapped her nose with a finger. “You are even jealous of a book?”
“It is hot—drinking more vinegar is good for the body and mind.” Gu Ru Jiu lay on his chest and gave a low laugh. She touched his face and said, “Your body is cool.”
Jin Yang did not have a good health, so no matter the temperature outside, his body surface was cool to the touch. When it was cold, he was not good to the touch, but in summer, it was very comfortable. Because of this, when Gu Ru Jiu did not have anything to do, she liked to touch Jin Yang to lower her temperature.
“Then let’s call for some sour things for the noon meal today.” Jin Yang was amused by Gu Ru Jiu’s words. He allowed her to “do as she pleased.” When she scratched him at his ticklish spots, he could not help but laugh out loud.
He Ming heard the laugh from inside the room, hesitated for a moment, and then went for it, saying, “Your Majesties, Prince Zhong has come with his heir and commandery princess.”
The room grew quiet. After a moment, he heard His Majesty’s voice come out.
“Have him wait in the front hall. Zhen and the empress will be there in a bit.”
“Yes.” He Ming looked at the tightly closed room door, and silently withdrew.
Prince Zhong saw He Ming come out by himself, and asked, “Gonggong, is the emperor willing to meet this subject?”
“Your Highness has come from afar. Even if His Majesty does not have the time, he will put other matters aside and see you first.” He Ming came forward and bowed. “Please wait for a moment—His Majesty will come soon.”
“Thank you, Gonggong.” At He Ming’s words, Prince Zhong had a satisfied expression, and nodded stiffly at He Ming.
He Ming looked at the commandery princess and the heir sitting below Prince Zhong. He moved to the side with a smile, and then kept silent.
After about half an hour, and Prince Zhong changing position three times, they finally heard movement from outside.
Prince Zhong had never met Jin Yang before. He had only heard that this emperor was not in good health, was as pretty as a woman, and was a gentleman. So when the black-robed Jin Yang appeared in front of him with his noble presence, he almost did not react. This was far from the sickly pretty boy that he had expected.
“This subject greets Your Majesty.” No matter how rebellious Prince Zhong was, he knew he had to bow the first time he formally met the emperor, even though based on seniority, he was of an older generation than the emperor.
However, in a place like the imperial family, seniority was not of much use. In the face of the emperor, everything had to stand aside.
When Prince Zhong was about finished with his bow, Jin Yang then went forward to help him stand up. “No need for such courtesy. Please be seated.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.” Prince Zhong thanked Jin Yang and then greeted Gu Ru Jiu who was behind Jin Yang. After Jin Yang and Gu Ru Jiu sat down, he then sat as well.
Gu Ru Jiu raised an eyebrow. This Prince Zhong did not seem as thoughtless as the rumors said.
The start of the talk was always asking if the other was well, then some meaningless words, and then in the end, it was the main topic. It was the same for Jin Yang and Prince Zhong’s talk.
“Since Prince Zhong likes the prosperity of the capital so much, and wants to find a good husband for Commandery Princess—how about staying longer in the capital? This way, Zhen will have more time to entertain you.” Jin Yang said with a smile, ” Prince, do not refuse.”
“This subject will not bear to refuse Your Majesty’s kindness.” Prince Zhong’s gaze fell to Jin Yang’s pair of large eyes. He turned his face down and said, “This subject only has this one daughter. This subject will ask for the empress dowager and the empress to spend some effort on her marriage.”
“A marriage is always on the words of the parents. This palace cannot take over. When the men of the capital propose to Commandery Princess, this palace will help see them. As to anything else…” Gu Ru Jiu gave an apologetic smile. “This palace is young, and likely cannot take on such a heavy responsibility.”
The princesses and commandery princesses of the Jin clan were always well-known. She had no understanding of this Commandery Princess Rong Nan. If after the marriage, this one got some male lovers, then wouldn’t the family she married into hate her, the one who had match-made the marriage?
Also, it was unknown which side Prince Zhong was on. Jin Yang was treating him at a distance. She had no need to get a connection to a prince with a hereditary title. There was no need to cause unnecessary misunderstandings and involvement.
Even the greatest feelings had to be maintained. One could not use other people’s true love and feelings as a bargaining chip. Wasting them without reason was the stupidest way.
She wanted Jin Yang to love her more and more, be more and more unable to leave her. She did not want the distance between them to grow because of unnecessary misunderstandings and suspicions.
Seeing the empress not agree, Prince Zhong did not care. Because of the Gu Family relationship, he did not like the empress very much. Just now, he was just saying the words. He would not dare to actually entrust his daughter’s marriage to the empress. If this one did not care and found an unreliable husband for his daughter, should he consent or not?
When the empress said this, he sighed in relief.
Commandery Princess Rong Nan was not outstanding in appearance. Her face and eyes were shaped like Prince Zhong’s. Fortunately, her skin was not as dark as her father’s. Her skin was white. Otherwise, she would be even more inconspicuous.
The aristocratic families did not just care about elegance—they also cared about appearance. In terms of looking at one’s face, they were very candid. Laying aside how the aristocratic families preferred to be subtle in behavior, they were so direct it was terrifying.
So in terms of appearance, Commandery Princess Rong Nang did not have any advantage. If she had talent, a good personality, she may find a good husband. If she did not have any of the two…
Gu Ru Jiu took a sip of tea, suppressed her thoughts, and smiled at Prince Zhong.
Commandery Princess Rong Nan saw this smile and could not help but feel envious. It would be nice to be as beautiful as the empress when she smiled.
No wonder the emperor was so good to the empress. If she was a man and could see such a beautiful smile directed at her every day, she could not help but want to bring all the good things to this person.
“It is almost noon. The palace has prepared food. If Prince Zhong, Heir, and Commandery Princess do not mind, then stay and eat,” Jin Yang said. “After the meal, Zhen will accompany you to greet the empress dowager.”
“Then we will disturb Your Majesty.” Prince Zhong had learned after coming to the capital that Prince Rui had been kept for the noon meal when he came to the palace. So when Jin Yang spoke, he was happy to agree.
He had to agree. If it spread that Prince Rui had stayed for a meal, and he, Prince Zhong, had to leave the palace when noon came, where would his face be?
He was a hereditary prince. He could not lose face.
The people moved to the dining hall of Purple Imperial Hall.
The dining hall had clean and comfortable decor. Even before they started to eat, they felt they had an appetite. Jin Hong looked around and thought, this was the imperial style. The dining hall in their home, compared to the palace, had the style of the new nobility.
The decor was tasteful. The washing of the hands was a careful task. Several brocade handkerchiefs were used just to wipe the hands. Jin Hong could not help but say, “Are these handkerchiefs used just once?”
Prince Zhong, who had come to the capital before, knew the extravagant style of the imperial house, and was not surprised. Seeing his son so timid, he coughed and said, “The imperial family style is like this.”
Gu Ru Jiu smiled and explained, “It should be like this based on the rules of the ancestors. But after His Majesty came to the throne, he felt that this was too wasteful. So other than the first handkerchief, the others are washed, dried, and used again.”
“So that is how it is.” Jin Hong saw the empress’ smile and heard her soft voice. Originally, he had been slightly cautious, but now he relaxed. “It is the good fortune of the people that Your Majesty is so thrifty.”
Jin Yang smiled. “An emperor should be so.”
In reality, in his view, even this was very wasteful, but these rules could not be easily changed.
Weren’t the noble airs and prestige built up by generations of gold and silver mountains?
The food was placed on the table. It was a rich spread with steamed, boiled, fried and cold food. Compared to this, what the Prince Zhong establishment ate usually was pig slop.
Jin Hong seemed to understand why his father-prince planned for his younger sister to marry in the capital. The people of the capital lived much better than in Rong Prefecture.
During the noon meal, Jin Hong ate one more bowl of rice and one more plate of fruit than usual. He found that his father and sister also ate more than usual, so he did not feel embarrassed.
Maybe, when they returned to Rong Prefecture, he would suggest to his father to bring some chefs from the capital to change the food at home.
Gu Ru Jiu looked at the half-eaten dishes on the table, and realized that she had eaten half a bowl more than usual. It seemed that eating with people who had good appetites would be good for one’s own appetite.
Thinking of the elegant way Prince Rui ate yesterday, and how well Prince Zhong’s family ate, Gu Ru Jiu felt a strange positive feeling towards them.
People who liked to eat should not be too bad.
She thought that the family who ate so much at noon would not be able to eat the pastries that the empress dowager greeted them with when they went to Kangquan Palace. But they managed to eat, and even finished them.
No wonder the three of them, including Commandery Princess, were very robust. Their appetite was extraordinary.
In the end, Prince Zhong left the palace with the pastry recipe Gu Ru Jiu gave him. When he returned to his residence, he suddenly realized that the recipe he had taken had been given by the empress.
Didn’t he say that he would dislike the empress, and give her something to look at?
Prince Zhong looked with inner conflict at the pastry recipe in his hand, and thought of the empress’ gentle appearance in the palace. He scratched his head in irritation. He turned and said to his children, “What do you think of the empress?”
Commandery Princess Rong Nan nodded. “Very good.” And very beautiful.
Jin Hong was more steady than his younger sister. He thought for a moment and said, “The empress and the emperor have a good relationship. Today, during the meal, I saw His Majesty use the wrong soup bowl.”
“Hmm?” Prince Zhong raised his eyebrows at his son, hoping that he could say more.
“Many couples act like they have a good relationship. But this son thinks, the emperor and empress are not pretending like the rumors say, but they really have a good relationship.” Jin Hong thought and then said, “His Majesty found he took the wrong soup bowl when he lifted the lid, but he did not hesitate and continued to drink the soup. This means that he and the empress frequently use each other’s utensils in private. If husband and wife are not in a good relationship, they cannot do something like that.”
“Hmm…” Prince Zhong rubbed his chin and said, “You are right. Anything else?”
“And… and…” Jin Hong hesitated for a moment. “I suspect that His Majesty fears his wife slightly.”
“Hmm!” Prince Zhong’s eyes widened. He looked around, made sure there were no servants in the room before he lowered his voice. “How can you tell?”
“His Majesty’s personal eunuchs are exceptionally humble in front of the empress. When the empress speaks, His Majesty always has this expression…” Jin Hong frowned. He wanted to find the right words to describe it. “Just like whatever the empress says is correct. I cannot describe the expression, but I feel if the empress agrees with something, His Majesty will not object.”
“Ah, how can this be good?” Prince Zhong slapped his leg, shaking and sighing. “No wonder Grand Princess Deyi sent a letter saying the empress will ruin the country. Was it because she already saw this?”
He frowned very hard. “If so, then this will be troublesome.”
“Father-Prince, this son feels that Grand Princess Deyi does not have good intentions. You cannot believe her words.” Jin Hong recalled the empress’ actions and words. “Also, this son feels the empress will not be an evil one. She has feelings with His Majesty.”
Prince Zhong rubbed his chin thoughtfully. In the end, he looked down at the pastry recipe in his hand and gritted his teeth. “Who cares what kind of empress she is? This has nothing to do with us. Who wins has nothing to do with us.”
Jin Hong stopped talking after hearing this. Inside, he felt somewhat envious. It would be good if he and his wife had as close a relationship as the imperial couple.
Grand Princess Deyi heard the news that Prince Zhong had come to the capital and showed some displeasure in her home. She had written two letters to Prince Zhong, but the other had never replied. She had heard that Prince Zhong was arrogant in his conduct, but not so much that he would dismiss her, a grand princess.
“Your Highness, Prince Rui has sent things for you.” Deyi’s personal matron came in and handed a gift lift to her. “He said that these are produce from his lands, not worth much, but they may be novel for you.”
Deyi opened the gift list. She sneered and said, “This Prince Rui is not anything good either. He looks good, but no one knows how bad he is inside.”
She did not like the emperor, but this did not mean that she liked Prince Rui very much. In her view, the emperor was the legitimate son of Prince Cheng, and his birth mother was Sima shi. He was much more noble than Prince Rui who was born unlucky.
“Your Highness, do not say that.” The matron lowered her voice and said, “It will not be good if others hear.”
The current steward of the princess establishment was sent by the emperor. Who knew what thoughts this steward had?
“They are all worrisome.” Deyi threw the gift list to the side, and took a sip of tea. “Have someone prepare gifts in return. This palace does not dare to take advantage of Prince Rui.”
“Yes.” The matron looked at the gift list and then withdrew.
When there were no more people in the room, Deyi cursed. “The ambitions of a wolf, too daring for the world?”
No matter how muddled she was, she had a bottom line. Prince Rui and his family looked polite and gentle, but they had just as much ambition as anyone else. Did the emperor know Prince Rui’s ambition?
Thinking of the empress she did not like very much, Deyi decided against warning the emperor. Let them fight. As long as it was in the hands of the Jin family, no matter who was the emperor, she was still the grand princess.
“Pah!” She threw the teacup in her hand. She looked at the steaming pieces of the ground and suddenly said, “Someone, anyone!”
The servant girls standing outside heard the princess’ voice was not right and ran in. “Princess, what is the matter with you?”
“Princess, why is your hand trembling so badly?”
“Go, quick—invite the palace physicians!”
Hearing the terrified voices of the servant girls, Deyi closed her eyes and “fainted” in relief.
When one grew old, they had problems. She could only have her children wait on her, and close the door to guests.