This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
In the night, the green trees had drooping shadows like beauties wearing hazy silk. This seemed to look like a beautiful dream.
There were fine-colored lanterns hanging from the trees. Some were like fresh flowers, some like animals. Each lantern was not large, but hanging from the trees, they seemed to create a dream-like world of beauty. People would feel like they did not know where they were.
Jin Yang thought of a grand Lantern Festival that Jin Prefecture had held in his childhood. He had been locked up in the prince establishment. Until the end, he had no chance to see what it was like outside.
Later, he heard his younger brother say that the lanterns had been made in the shapes of flowers, little dogs and rabbits. He had secretly envied him. But as he grew up and became the emperor of Great Feng, he saw all kinds of fine and beautiful lanterns in the palace, many times more beautiful than the lanterns from a little place like the Jin Prefecture.
But when he saw the colored lanterns hanging in Luanhe Palace today, he suddenly remembered—back then, he had once said to Gu Ru Jiu what had been at the Lantern Festival, and all that he remembered from what his younger brother had said during his childhood.
The liveliness at the festival, those adorable animal lanterns, and the snacks on the sides of the streets had become the things he had been interested in and part of his childhood dreams.
But he had grown up, and thrown his childhood memories to the back of his mind. When he talked about this with Jiu Jiu, it was just as part of an interesting conversation.
He had not expected Jiu Jiu to have people make the lanterns that he had imagined, and copy the little food stalls with the Jin Prefecture style.
A familiar scent came into his nose, and seemed to fill something up. His heart seemed to be in a bowl of sweet soup, so soft and warm.
He looked dazedly at Gu Ru Jiu. He found that he could not say a word, but he believed that he would never forget this scene in his lifetime.
The flower lanterns under the moon, the lover who had prepared this for him, and the fragrant delicious food.
“Which young master is this who has come here?” Gu Ru Jiu smiled brightly and pulled Jin Yang into Luanhe Palace. Then she said, “This little shop has a special longevity noodle bowl, made personally by this shop owner. The person who eats such noodles will live a hundred years, have good fortune, a hall full of children and grandchildren, a loving wife. Young Master, do you want one?”
Jin Yang’s throat felt slightly sore, slightly sweet, slightly choking. He stared at Gu Ru Jiu, not wanting to move his gaze away.
“Young Master, since you do not speak, then you have agreed.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled and pulled Jin Yang to sit at the table. Then she rolled up her sleeves. “Please sit for a moment; the noodles will be ready immediately.”
Ten steps away, there was a pot with a wood fire underneath it, and the water in the pot was boiling.
Put in the noodles and the vegetables, and then lift the pot. Sprinkle chopped green onion in the bowl, then seasoning, wipe away the water on the edge of the bowl. Gu Ru Jiu placed the bowl in front of Jin Yang. “Young Master, please eat.”
The fragrance of the onions and the noodles crept into his nose. Jin Yang picked up the chopsticks, and then picked up the noodles.
This was one strand of noodles, very long, but uneven, crooked and very ugly. He shoved the noodle into his mouth. He did not bear for it to break, so he ate carefully, even being careful how hard he held his chopsticks.
After finishing the noodle, he ate the vegetables and drank all of the soup. He even used his chopsticks to pick up and eat the chopped onions on the sides of the bowl.
He put down his chopsticks, and locked at Gu Ru Jiu who was standing next to him with a small smile. He reached out and hugged her waist.
Gu Ru Jiu looked at him, heartsore. She gently patted his shoulder.
He had lost his mother at the age of three. His father was weak, incapable, and lusty. His younger siblings were arrogant. Jin Yang, who had such a childhood, had never said anything about it in front of her, but she could imagine how much hardship he had suffered.
Maybe no relatives had ever made longevity noodles for him before, and maybe no one had taken him out to look at the flower lanterns that children were interested in, and maybe no one had been concerned with what he wanted, liked and disliked.
No matter. She was willing to make him longevity noodles with her own hands, help him make up for his regrets in the past, be concerned for him, and help him obtain bit by bit all that he once did not have.
In the eyes of the world, he was the emperor, a person who should be invincible, the lucky imperial descendant. But in her eyes, he was not just the emperor, but a person, her husband.
He was good to her. She also wanted to be good to him.
“Is my noodle delicious?”
He heard her ask.
He nodded, and leaned his head against her abdomen like a tired traveler who finally found his own oasis.
“This is the most delicious noodle that I have ever eaten.” His voice was slightly hoarse, and he did not look up.
“As long as you like it.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled, and gently patted the back of his head with her right hand, her expression very gentle.
“Will you make me a bowl every year at this time?” The heat of her abdomen spread to his face through the thin fabric. His face was a bit red.
“Okay.” She smiled brightly, like a flower in the night. “As long as you like it, I will make it for you every year at this time.”
To give Jin Yang this surprise, she had spent a lot of time yesterday to make this longevity noodle that was one strand. She had servants carefully keep it on ice so it did not spoil. It was slightly ugly, but it was one strand.
“The lanterns are beautiful.” Jin Yang looked at the lanterns in the courtyard, and let go of Gu Ru Jiu’s waist. He pulled her hand to walk under a tree. Then he took a rabbit lantern to hold. “I like this one the best.”
Gu Ru Jiu looked at the adorable rabbit in his hand, and took down a gold mouse lantern. “I like this one the best.”
Gu Ru Jiu was a rabbit, and Jin Yang was a mouse.
The two of them looked at the lanterns in each other’s hands. They felt the other was very naive, and laughed together.
“Pity that today is not a full moon, and we cannot admire the moon.” Jin Yang held Gu Ru Jiu’s hand and walked slowly in the courtyard. Then he started to admire each lantern. These lanterns were not as refined as the palace lanterns, but had their own folk flavor.
He looked at Jiu Jiu at his side and thought dazedly, even if he had gone to the Lantern Festival back then, the lanterns he would have seen back then could not have been better than this. Also, back then, he had no one to keep him company, and no one who was concerned for him. It was not like now. Someone was keeping him company and was worried for him.
“If the moon is too beautiful, how will you admire the lanterns?” Gu Ru Jiu smiled and looked up at the black sky. “This is good.”
“You are right. This is perfect.” Jin Yang nodded with a smile. He admired each lantern on the trees, and then looked at Gu Ru Jiu. “Jiu Jiu, tonight… I am very happy.”
Gu Ru Jiu turned to look at him. “I am also very happy, but…”—she blinked—”it is late. You should return to sleep.” They had walked for so long, the bowl of noodles that he had just eaten should also be digested.
“All right.” The lanterns were beautiful, but to him, what was beautiful was not the lanterns, but the feelings. Jiu Jiu was concerned about his health, and was not willing to let him sleep late. He would listen. He did not bear for her to worry.
“I will have the attendants put away these lanterns. If you want to see them, I will have them hang them up again.” Seeing Jin Yang agree obediently but his gaze a little reluctant, Gu Ru Jiu said, “Also, don’t we already have in our hands the lanterns we like the most?”
Jin Yang looked at the rabbit lantern in his hand, and at Gu Ru Jiu who he was leading. He said with a smile, “You are right. The most precious and loved are already in my hands.”
He was not speaking of the lantern, but the person. And she knew that clearly.
The two of them returned to Purple Imperial Hall. After bathing, Gu Ru Jiu sat by the bed and smiled at Jin Yang. “Chenjun, do you have any more gifts you want?”
Jin Yang looked at her seductive collarbone, her fine skin, and her bright eyes. “Of course.”
Hearing this, Gu Ru Jiu curled a finger. “The gift is here. The owner needs to get it himself.”
Jin Yang walked over, and then unpacked the most beautiful gift in the world.
The lanterns in Luanhe Palace were alight for the entire night. The next morning, Bai Xian led people to carefully put away these lanterns.
He Ming, who came with him, said sarcastically, “Bai Gonggong, you are really capable to conceal this so well.”
“As a servant, I cannot go against what Her Majesty ordered.” Bai Xian handed the lotus lantern to an eunuch behind him. “Everyone knows that He Gonggong is His Majesty’s most trusted. How could I let you know of this? So, He Gonggong, forgive me.”
He Ming was choked by Bai Xian’s words. He stopped for a moment and said, “You are also one of His Majesty’s people. You plan so much for Her Majesty—you do not fear His Majesty being dissatisfied with you?”
“He Ming, do you know how many years I have served His Majesty?” Bai Xian went on tiptoes to pick up a moon lantern. Then he carefully handed it over. After the other eunuch left, he continued, “Some people do so much for His Majesty, so what if I listen to her?”
Back then, he had been favored by the princess consort, and then was transferred to serve His Majesty. He had not been angry, and thought of it as paying back the princess consort’s favor.
As an eunuch, he could not do many things, wasn’t able to do many things, and was helpless.
He knew better than anyone what kind of life His Majesty had lived in Prince Cheng’s establishment. So when this current Princess Consort Cheng came into the palace with her children and gifts for him, he threw the gifts at the other’s face.
Other people cursed him for using power to bully others. He did not care. But it was impossible for him to give Princess Consort Cheng a good face.
He Ming heard what Bai Xian said. He was silent for a moment, and stopped arguing with him. He walked to another tree and took down a lantern of a monkey hugging a peach.
He did not understand Her Majesty’s intentions, because these lanterns did not look fitting with the scenery. They were in the forms that little children liked. Why would she think of using them to make His Majesty happy?
He did not understand, but he saw how careful Bai Xian was with the lanterns. So he knew that these childlike lanterns that were not romantic at all might be very important to His Majesty.
Gu Ru Jiu did not want to get up at all. She was wrapped up in a silk blanket, and her shoulders were exposed.
“Sleep a while more?” Jin Yang walked next to the bed, his face ruddy. He kissed the corner of her mouth. “I am going to the imperial study. I will return at noon.”
“Yes.” Gu Ru Jiu nodded inside the blankets. She looked at Jin Yang’s departing back, and touched the corner of her mouth. To be able to kiss her unwashed face on her unrinsed mouth with such feeling, Jin Yang must feel true love for her.
“Your Majesty seems to be in a very good mood today.” Jin Xiang followed behind Jin Yang and said with a smile, “It seems that you have encountered a happy event.”
“Hmm?” Jin Yang touched his face and found that his lips had been unconsciously curved. “Pretty good.”
Jin Xiang’s eyes moved, and he knew at heart—His Majesty must have had a good night to look so flushed and happy.
Her Majesty was really powerful. Yesterday, there had been many beauties at the banquet. His Majesty did not even take a glance. From start to end, if he was not talking to his subjects, all his attention was on the empress.
The empress really had good tactics to be able to make an emperor do this.
Hu Yun Qi , who was walking with Jin Xiang, raised his eyebrows but did not speak. While he and Jin Xiang were both vice-captains of the dragon guard, Jin Xiang was a cousin from the same family. He could not compare to such a relationship. So Jin Xiang could say things he could not.
But he was a man, and naturally could see why His Majesty was in such a good mood. His thoughts were not as unrestrained as Jin Xiang’s, but the direction was the same.
His Majesty really was in true love with the empress.
“No wonder,” Jin Xiang said, “Your Majesty looks very energetic today. Is it because you are a year older, and the heavens have given their blessings?”
Jin Yang laughed at his words. “I will take your good words.”
Jin Xiang rubbed his head and smiled honestly, as though embarrassed by his words.
Outside the imperial study, Li Guang Ji was standing there quietly. He saw that His Majesty was not on the imperial cart, but was walking on foot with the eunuchs and the dragon guards. He neatened his sleeves, and then bowed in front of Jin Yang.
“Prime Minister Li, no need to be polite.” After Li Guang Ji was almost finished with his bow, Jin Yang spoke to let him stand. “Prime Minister Li has come to the imperial study so early in the morning—is something the matter?”
“Your Majesty, this subject has been wronged. Your Majesty, please help.” Li Guang Ji had a bitter expression, and bowed deeply to Jin Yang.
Seeing Li Guang Ji bow until his head was almost reaching his knees, Jin Yang’s smile faded. “Prime Minister Li, you can come into the imperial study to speak of the matter.”
“Yes.” Li Guang Ji stood up. He followed Jin Yang through the doors of the imperial palace.
Jin Xiang raised his eyebrows. He and Hu Yun Qi stood by the door, and then carefully listened to the sounds inside.
“Your Majesty, Prince Zhong came this morning and had people surround the gates of this subject’s home, then had people throw ink and curse. This subject’s family has been shamed. Your Majesty, please help.”
Jin Yang suddenly found that Li Guang Ji’s outer robe was slightly wrinkled, and there were a few drops of ink at the corners of his robes. Compared to his usual appearance, he was slightly messy.
“What is going on?” Jin Yang showed a shocked expression. “Prince Zhong and Prime Minister have no contact. How has such a major matter occurred?”
“This matter…” Li Guang Ji sighed, and explained.
It turned out that after the birthday banquet yesterday, the court officials went back to their own homes, and the carriages of Prince Zhong met with those of the Li Family. Then, the Li Family carriages were at a road curve, and Prince Zhong’s carriages were on the straight part.
Because the Li Family had always had lofty status, and because it was the road curve and the straight road, the Li Family carriage drivers did not stop the carriage, and passed Prince Zhong’s carriage to go in front.
After Li Guang Ji learned of the matter, he lectured the carriage driver and prepared to visit Prince Zhong today. But before he left his home, Prince Zhong came to his door. Then, ignoring everything, he had people splash ink on the family gates.
The reason was the Li Family did not follow the rules, did not abide by status, and was ignorant of the most basic principles. They were an insult.
Before entering the palace, Li Guang Ji had wondered whether Prince Zhong knew that it was him who had arranged for people to criticize him, and so was using this to embarrass the Li Family.
But then he thought, the people who he had arranged had ordinary status. Even the relatives of those people may not guess their relationships with him, much less Prince Zhong.
After hearing of what had happened, Jin Yang thought for a moment. “Prime Minister Li, Zhen‘s cousin-uncle is usually rash. Zhen will have people take him back immediately, and not let him make trouble for the Li Family.”
Cousin-uncle? Li Guang Ji almost spat blood. The gap of how many generations of blood relationship was there that His Majesty still called Prince Zhong cousin-uncle so intimately?
Didn’t His Majesty dislike people who bullied the common people? Why was he so kind to Prince Zhong?
Did those memorandums that criticized Prince Zhong not affect His Majesty’s judgment? If this was true, it could be seen how firm His Majesty’s mind was. So firm it was terrifying.
And in this attitude of protecting Prince Zhong, the unspoken implication was that Prince Zhong is an unreliable person like this. So you, a reliable person, bear some more.
Li Guang Ji felt a bit annoyed. But seeing that His Majesty did not want to take care of the affairs between the two families, he could only bow, and then left.
“What aristocratic family, what symbol of etiquette? You do not even distinguish between status, so how can you discuss etiquette?” Prince Zhong’s attendant cursed. No foul language was used, but each word was a stab in the hearts of Li Family’s people.
The Li Family looked down on a person like Prince Zhong who was physically developed but mentally simple. But the other was a hereditary prince, someone that many in Great Feng knew to be a rough person. Even if the other splashed the gates of their family with ink, they could not fight Prince Zhong, and could only argue with the people that Prince Zhong had brought.
Many onlookers were excited to see a hereditary prince and the first-rank Li Family in conflict. They wanted the two sides to start fighting immediately. That would be more interesting.
To everyone’s disappointment, the Li Family was smart not to start a fight with the people that Prince Zhong had brought along. Prince Zhong also did not have his servants start fights, just curse the Li Family. When one person became hoarse, he would switch with another person. It looked like a street gangster bullying on the streets.
The Li Family had stood in the capital proudly for so many years, and never encountered something so unreasonable. Many Li Family members were so angry they could not breathe.
But Prince Zhong, who had angered the Li Family like this, was sitting on a carved chair and holding a blue porcelain teacup, looking idle. He refreshed the worldview of the capital’s people.
So you could also do this when there was a conflict?
Look how angry the Li Family was. Yet this Prince Zhong could even idly drink tea, completely ignoring the Li Family.
Many people admired, envied and were jealous of families like the Li Family. So when they suddenly saw the lofty Li Family being bullied by people like this, many people who were watching felt a hidden pleasure inside, and hoped that the Li Family would be more unlucky.
It was not a good look for a prince and the Prime Minister to end up in an argument like this. The people watching, no matter how happy, had to have an expression on their faces like “I do not understand anything.”
When Gu Cun Jing arrived with the dragon guards, he found all the corners not far away brimming with onlookers who did not know what was going on. He sighed, got off his horse, and came in front of Prince Zhong. “This lowly official greets Prince Zhong.”
Prince Zhong saw Gu Cun Jing’s appearance, and he uncrossed his legs. Then he handed the teacup to his attendant. “This official is?”
“This lowly official is the captain of the dragon guards.” Gu Cun Jing glanced at the Li Family gates. Even the steps and the stone lions were black, and looked very miserable. “This lowly official has come with the emperor’s orders.”
“The captain of the dragon guards is a good position.” Prince Zhong nodded and said with a smile, “I will not give other people face, but Captain is His Majesty’s person, and different from the others.” After saying this, he stood up. He did not ask what imperial orders Gu Cun Jing came with, and beckoned to his subordinates. “Since Captain has come to ask for mercy, this prince will give the Li Family face. If they offend again, this prince will complain about the Li Family to the emperor.”
Once again, the Li Family members could not breathe. Did they have to thank him for not pursuing this more?
“Captain.” Prince Zhong was unreasonable to the Li Family but he was very polite facing Gu Cun Jing. “It is not that this prince wants to be at odds with the Li Family, but this prince is a member of the imperial family. Even if they are an aristocratic family, they are not more noble than the imperial family. Yet they act like this. They are not just looking down on me—aren’t they looking down on the imperial house, and the emperor as well?” At this, he seemed to be in pain. “If the ancestors are shamed because of me, I will not feel at ease in this lifetime!”
Prince Zhong really was a talent to speak of robbing the path in such a novel manner.
Gu Cun Jing looked at him with new respect.
Gu Cun Jing was unable to find any words for a while.
After saying what he wanted, Prince Zhong waved his hand and said goodbye to Gu Cun Jing. He got on his horse, whipped his horse in front of the Li Family and then left.
“Outrageous!” The second master, as Li Guang Ji’s younger brother, was skilled in poetry and respected by the people of the capital. He had lived four decades and never been so angry. Seeing Prince Zhong leave without any care, he turned white in anger. If Li Huai Gu had not been holding him, he might have fainted.
Gu Cun Jing did not look at the expressions of the Li Family, bowed politely, and then left with his subordinates.
In reality, even he did not expect Prince Zhong, who made such a big fuss, would leave so easily. The matter went so smoothly that even Gu Cun Jing suspected the veracity.