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Hearing the news, Gu Ru Jiu stilled, and turned to Jin Yang. As expected, she saw that he had a complicated expression, as though he had not yet digested the news.
She squeezed his hand. “Your Majesty?”
Jin Yang refocused. He said after a moment, “Official Sima served under three emperors. He has made great service to Great Feng. He will be buried with the honors of a second rank duke.”
He Ming stood there, waiting for His Majesty’s next words.
But His Majesty did not tell him more orders after this, and led the empress back to Purple Imperial Hall. He stilled, and then went to look at Bai Xian. “Bai Gonggong, what does His Majesty mean?”
“What could it mean? Do as His Majesty says.” Bai Xian did not dare to touch the matters of the Sima Family any more. Seeing He Ming respectfully ask him, he was not happy, and said, “He Gonggong is a capable person, and can do things well.”
He Ming almost rolled his eyes in anger. But he knew this was not the time to fight with Bai Xian. He hurriedly told His Majesty’s orders to the Ministry of Rites, and the Secretariat.
There was a lot to take care of if it was to be a duke’s burial.
“Chenjun, people will always have this day. “Gu Ru Jiu felt that Jin Yang’s expression was not right, and comforted him. “Do not be too sad.”
“I only feel it is a pity. Sima Hong was a rare talent.” He was regretful. After he became the emperor, Sima Hong was already old, and no longer had the style of former years.
A good judge of talent came, but the ten thousand mile horse was already old. This was fate.
An incompetent emperor like the previous emperor met a good subject, but he did not have many people he was reassured by.
Gu Ru Jiu had not expected that Jin Yang was thinking like this. She gripped his hand hard.
Jin Yang smiled at her. “Do not worry, I am fine.”
As the two talked, Gu Ru Jiu saw Jin Xiang come on patrol with the dragon guards. She could not help but say, “Chenjun, Official Sima is Vice Captain Jin’s maternal grandfather. Let him go home early today.”
Jin Yang had not thought of this, and nodded at Gu Ru Jiu’s words.
Sima Hong was like the pillar of the Sima Family. After the pillar fell, the Sima Family lost the strength to fight the Li Family. Unless someone as talented as Sima Hong appeared among the Sima descendants, they would not be able to rival the Li Family anytime soon.
The Ping Prince Heiress Consort heard the news that her father had passed away, and her teacup fell to the ground. She looked, pale, at the servant girl who had reported. A moment later, she said, wiping her tears, ” Prepare the carriage.”
“Mother, do not hurry; I will come with you to Grandfather’s home.” Jin Xiang had heard the news and come back from the palace. Seeing his mother panicked, he helped her sit down. “Sit for a moment; this son will go change clothes.”
“You cannot go.” The Ping Prince Heiress Consort grabbed Jin Xiang’s hand and looked at him with red eyes. “You have to remember that you are first His Majesty’s dragon guard captain, and then a grandson of the Sima Family.” As a daughter, she was sad at the death of her father, but she did not want her son to be affected.
Her son finally managed to get on the right path, and enter His Majesty’s eyes. If he was implicated by the Sima Family and His Majesty disliked her son, then it would be more than a loss.
“Do not worry.” Jin Xiang knew what she was thinking, and urged, “When I was patrolling, I encountered His Majesty and the empress. Her Majesty let me come back early.”
Hearing Jin Xiang say this, Ping Prince Heiress Consort sighed in relief, and then started to cry when she thought of her father.
Seeing his mother cry so hard she could not breathe, Jin Xiang was slightly grateful to the empress for letting him return early. Otherwise, if his mother was alone, he would be worried.
Soon, the Ping Prince Heir also came back, and the family of three went to the Sima Residence.
Zheng shi was greeting the people who came to express their condolences, and had not yet been off her feet. Turning, she saw her sister-in-law, and came over, wiping her tears.
The Ping Prince Heiress Consort had not stopped crying, and it took a long time before she could breathe. “Father… when did he pass away?”
“He was still fine this morning,” Zheng shi said with red eyes. “When it was almost noon, he called everyone in the family, and said that he dreamed Mother-in-law came to see him. I felt this was not good, and had people go get the doctor, but before the doctor could come, Father-in-law…”
Ping Prince Heiress Consort cried a while more. She saw that her sister-in-law, who usually took care with her appearance, had messy hair. So she helped her sister-in-law take care of matters, and it was not so hard.
The common saying was that a lean camel was larger than a horse. The Sima Family had not had good luck recently, but the other families gave them face, and came with gifts. Even the Li Family sent Li Huai Gu.
Gu Zhi Yu was Gu Family’s next head of household, so he came representing the Gu Family.
After lighting a stick of incense in front of Sima Hong’s coffin, he greeted the Sima Family members and then left the mourning hall.
There were places arranged for the guests who came to rest in the nearby courtyards. These people saw Gu Zhi Yu and stood up to bow to him. There was not much talk and laughter, but that could not disguise their enthusiasm.
Gu Zhi Yu saw that most present were younger people, and understood. On the surface, he conversed politely with them.
“Brother-in-law.” A man who looked somewhat thin approached Gu Zhi Yu and smiled fawningly. “Brother-in-law, have you been well recently?”
“Brother-in-law.” Gu Zhi Yu saw the incomer was his dead wife’s younger brother, Chen Kong, and some sincerity came into his eyes. He started to talk to his brother-in-law.
The two talked for a while. Then Chen Kong rubbed his hands and said, “Brother-in-law, I heard that there are some empty positions in the Ministry of Revenue?”
Gu Zhi Yu glanced at Chen Kong and then looked down. “There are some empty positions; right now, some of the lower-level officials are being tested…”
“Do you think I could do it?” Chen Kong spoke impatiently before Gu Zhi Yu had finished. “The position I am in now is very dull.”
Gu Zhi Yu frowned. “You have not been in the Ministry of Rites for many months, and you want to go to the Ministry of Revenue…”
“Brother-in-law, you cannot say this.” Chen Kong saw that Gu Zhi Yu did not seem to want to help him, and hurriedly said, “How can the Ministry of Rites compare to the Ministry of Revenue?” After this, he patted his money pouch, his expression one of “you understand.” He said, “Right?”
“If you want to join the Ministry of Revenue, then attend their test.” Gu Zhi Yu had a warm expression, but his eyes were slightly cold. “Before the test, if there is anything you do not understand, you can come ask me.”
Chen Kong saw he was not willing, and his enthusiasm cooled. He stood and said in an odd tone, “Since Official Gu is not willing to help, then nevermind—farewell.”
Gu Zhi Yu sat with his spine straight, and no expression on his face.
The people who were sitting near Gu Zhi Yu had heard the two men’s talk, and were dumbstruck. They thought they were wastrels, but they thought they would not be so shameless.
If you want to go in the back door and find someone to talk to, find a place where there are no people. That this person was brainless was already bad enough, but then also asking for help with such an attitude? Did the other person owe you?
“If I had a brother-in-law willing to arrange a position for me, not just the Ministry of Rites—it could even be the Ministry of Works.” Wu Chong shook his head and said, “I hear that Chen Kong’s position in the Ministry of Rites was found for him by Gu Zhi Yu. He was just there for a few months, and now he is targeting the Ministry of Revenue. The empty positions in Revenue are all fifth rank or lower fourth rank. It would be a wonder if Chen Kong doesn’t fail with his character.”
The other wastrel heard this and said, “He has a good life. His elder sister married a kind person. If I had encountered a brother-in-law like this, I would have started to ignore him a long time ago.”
Wu Chong did not speak. He had heard that the Chen Family had benefited a lot in this last half year because of their connection to the Gu Family. Their daughter had been dead for more than two years, and they were still using the name of their daughter to have the Gu Family help. He did not know what this family was thinking.
Things like feelings became fewer the more they were used. With them like this, even if the Gu Family was kind, they would still distance themselves gradually.
What Chen Kong did was not a secret. A few days later, the news spread, and grew more unpleasant over time.
When it reached Gu Ru Jiu’s ears, the rumors became the Chen Family using their dead daughter to get benefits for their son.
People always wanted to spectate and wanted the matter to become as big as possible. The Gu Family was also the empress’ family. So while some people said the Gu Family was unkind and not willing to help the wife’s family after she had passed away, more people were criticizing the Chen Family.
Chen Kong’s present position was an idle one that Gu Zhi Yu had arranged for him. Now, Chen Kong wanted to go to the Ministry of Revenue. Gu Zhi Yu had not agreed but said that he would help Chen Kong with studying for the test. Could any flaw be picked out from this?
The empty positions in the Ministry of Revenue were all important ones. If an idiot like Chen Kong went there, what could he do?
Gu Ru Jiu listened to several versions of the rumors. No matter what, there was one unchanging part in the rumors—Chen Kong was an idiot.
She had not met Chen Kong many times. She just remembered that he was an idle person who did not do anything. When Elder Sister-in-law mentioned him, she would frequently sigh. She had not thought that many people would learn of such a minor matter, and so she was worried for her big brother. But as a woman of the inner palace, it was not good for her to summon a man like Big Brother if there was not a major matter.
Because she was worried, she did not sleep well that night, tossing and turning. The next morning when she got up, she felt slightly dizzy.
“Your Majesty.” Bai Xian walked in front of Gu Ru Jiu and bowed. “His Majesty has invited you to the imperial study.”
“Yes.” Gu Ru Jiu nodded and stood up.
Qiu Luo worriedly supported her. “Your Majesty, you do not look well—how about not going?”
“No matter; I want to go out and get some air.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled. She walked out of Purple Imperial Hall. The moment she was under the sun, she felt her head was buzzing.
When she came to the imperial study, she found that other than Jin Yang, her big brother was also there. She immediately understood why Jin Yang had called her here. She smiled gratefully at Jin Yang and then turned to Gu Zhi Yu. “Big Brother.”
Jin Yang stood up. “I am going to bask in the sun outside.” He smiled at Gu Ru Jiu and then left the imperial study.
“Big Brother.” Other than her and Gu Zhi Yu, only Qiu Luo, a loyal servant, was in the study. So Gu Ru Jiu did not have many restraints. She walked in front of Gu Zhi Yu and saw that he seemed to be thinner than in the past. She said, “Have you been well recently?”
“I am very good.” Gu Zhi Yu saw his sister like this, and wanted to touch her head. But now she had a complicated spiraling hair bun and probably wouldn’t feel his touch, so he changed to touching the hair pins at the side of her head. “I see that you seem to be slightly more plump.”
Not just his sister, even His Majesty seemed to be more plump.
Seeing that Big Brother did not seem very sad because of this matter, Gu Zhi Yu sighed in relief inside before saying, “His Majesty is very good to me.” Then she called for Gu Zhi Yu to sit down, and sat down next to him. She chatted with Gu Zhi Yu about some trivial things, and did not mention the Chen Family.
Gu Zhi Yu knew what his sister was thinking of. When they were pretty much talked out, Gu Zhi Yu said, “You heard the rumors?”
“Um…” Gu Ru Jiu looked away uncomfortably, and then whispered, “Just accidentally heard a bit.”
“You are still like this.” Gu Zhi Yu thought, it could be seen that His Majesty was really good to Jiu Jiu. Otherwise, she could not have maintained her personality. “When you are worried about something, you will always skirt the topic.”
Gu Ru Jiu rubbed her chin. “Really?”
Gu Zhi Yu did not expose her and said, “The Chen Family have not been well these past two years. I know Chen Kong’s personality, so I did not mind this very much.”
Hearing this, Gu Ru Jiu did not know what to say right now. As a younger sister, she could not intervene much on the matter of the Chen Family. She could only say, “Big Brother, as long as you are happy.”
“I know.” Gu Zhi Yu said after a moment of silence, “I have a bottom line. I will not agree to anything that is not good for the Gu Family, the court, or you.”
He could not let Chen Kong go to an important place like the Ministry of Revenue. This was related to the living of the people, the money pouch of the court. Chen Kong’s personality and skills were not suitable for that kind of place.
Seeing Big Brother speak so calmly of the Chen Family, Gu Ru Jiu could not help but blame the Chen Family. Could they sleep well after using Big Brother and Sister-in-law’s feelings like this? Would Sister-in-law be happy in the afterlife?
People’s hearts were so hard to understand. She remembered a few years ago, the Chen Family had still been well, and while Chen Kong had been a bit of a waste, he was not so shameless. How did it now become like this?
“You and His Majesty being well is more important than anything. Let other people worry about the rest,” Gu Zhi Yu said with a smile. “I should leave. It is not appropriate for us to talk so long in private.”
Gu Ru Jiu bit her lower lip and nodded. As she prepared to stand up and see Gu Zhi Yu out, she felt her vision darken and then knew nothing else.
Jin Yang saw the door to the study open, and was going to return when he heard Qiu Luo’s panicked voice from inside. He immediately changed expression, and ran into the imperial study. At a glance, he saw Jiu Jiu unconscious and held by Gu Zhi Yu.
Buzz, buzz, buzz.
He opened his mouth, and felt that his head was buzzing. He could not think.
“Your Majesty.” Bai Xian saw His Majesty stagger and hurriedly went to support him. Then he said urgently, “Quick, summon the imperial physician!”
Jin Yang pushed Bai Xian aside, and went in front of Gu Zhi Yu, taking Gu Ru Jiu into his arms. Seeing her pale face, he said expressionlessly, “Chen Kong left his position without permission. Erase all his duties, and he will not be allowed to hold a position in the future.”
What did a Chen Kong count for? If something happened to Jiu Jiu, then the entire Chen Family would not have good days to live.
The people present knew that His Majesty was venting his anger, but no one dared to speak up for Chen Kong. Even Gu Zhi Yu was looking worriedly at Gu Ru Jiu, and did not remember to ask for mercy.
The moment he saw his sister fall down, he regretted. He should not have indulged the Chen Family, allowing the rumors to spread, and his sister to worry as well.
The one in the wrong was not the Chen Family, but him.
In these more than two years, he had still not walked out of his pain at losing his wife. His family worried for him. Even his younger sister, married into the palace, had to worry for his matters.
He saw His Majesty’s almost twisted face. He dazedly took a step back. He looked at his sister in concern and did not touch her.
“Prince, Princess Consort Cheng has come with a note.” An attendant presented a greeting note to Prince Rui.
Prince Rui looked at the note, and smiled insincerely. “Princess Consort Cheng is this prince’s sister-in-law. This prince is a man, and can’t receive her. Refuse it.”
“Yes.” The attendant left.
“Father-Prince,” the Rui Prince Heir said in scorn, “what does Princess Consort Cheng want to do?”
“What she wants to do has nothing to do with us,” Prince Rui said with a cold expression. “How can a stupid woman do anything smart?”
Someone smart would not abuse the son left by the previous wife, and not make even a superficial attempt to hide it. How many people knew that her son and daughter liked to bully her stepson?
She was stupid and so were her children. Prince Cheng had been dead for so long, yet her son’s title had not yet come down. Who did not know that His Majesty was intentionally being slow?
But so what?
Prince Rui closed his eyes in scorn. If there were not stupid people in the world, how could they contrast against other people’s smarts?
Not long after the attendant left, another one hurriedly came in. “Prince, something happened in the palace.”
“What happened?” Prince Rui opened his eyes, his gaze sharp.
“The empress fainted.” The attendant had obtained first-hand information. “The emperor is very angry.”
“My good nephew is really a rare dedicated lover of the Jin Family,” Prince Rui said sarcastically. “Really an anomaly of the family.”
The attendant did not dare to speak and listened quietly.
The Rui Prince Heir was puzzled. “Father-Prince, do they not all say that His Majesty is not really in love with the empress, and is pretending to be only because he wants to get the military power from the empress dowager?”
In all of Great Feng, who did not know that the empress dowager and the empress were like mother and daughter? Before the empress married into the palace, the empress dowager would keep good things to give to her, and even the Zhou Family misses could not rival her.
“It can be seen that not all rumors are true.” Prince Rui elegantly waved his fan. “Or maybe these people refuse to believe in the love of an emperor.”
This was related to the preferences of the generations of Jin emperors. The court was used to the emperor’s palace being full of women. Now that there was an emperor faithful to one woman, they refused to accept it.
“The present emperor does not act like he has no feelings towards the empress.” In Prince Rui’s view, even if Jin Yang did not have feelings to the point that he would follow her into death, he definitely had feelings for the empress.
A man would not spend so much effort on a woman he did not have any feelings for.
“Have them inquire. See what happened with the empress.” Prince Rui waved a hand for the attendant to leave, and then said to his son, “Go walk around, and think of a way to make His Majesty let us go back to our lands early.”
After seeing Jin Yang, he had a faint guess that after coming to the capital this time, it would be hard to leave again.
Reality proved that his guess was correct. After the birthday, the emperor arranged for him and Prince Zhong to stay in another palace with the excuse of entertaining them.
He did not know what Prince Zhong’s family was thinking. But a few days ago, Prince Zhong had led people to crash the Li Family’s doors. It could be seen that this one was angry. Otherwise, he would not have thrown ink at the Prime Minister’s gates.
He did not know which ancestor of the Jin Family this temper came from.
“Father-Prince, that Dowager Consort Sun in the palace wants to work with us. Why…” the Rui Prince Heir asked in confusion. “With her there, we have someone on the inside.”
“This woman…” Prince Rui had a complicated expression. “The empress is a smart woman. She will not allow the dowager consorts to always stay in the palace. Soon, these women the previous emperor favored will be sent to Linan Palace.”
“Linan…” The Rui Prince Heir twisted his mouth. “The empress is pretty vicious.”
Prince Rui glanced at his son and sighed. This child was not mature enough in his thoughts. In his view, the empress was not vicious enough. If it was him, he would not waste effort sending the old dowager consorts that were not loyal to the Linan Palace. He would find a reason and get them to go to a temple.
Women were women. They were too soft-hearted and could not achieve great things.
In Purple Imperial Hall, it was deathly quiet. Several imperial physicians walked trembling to the bedside, and looked at the unconscious empress. They exchanged a look, and the most experienced imperial physician went to take her pulse.
They frequently came to Purple Imperial Hall to take the empress’ pulse, but each time they saw the empress, the other was alert and full of energy. She would not be motionless on the bed like this.
Because the empress had been busy with the emperor’s birthday celebrations, she had not seen a physician for nearly ten days. They had not expected that something would happen to the empress in a short ten days.
The imperial physician put a silk handkerchief over Gu Ru Jiu’s wrist, and then took her pulse with a stern expression. His three colleagues looked at him with burning gazes, wanting him to immediately say the empress was fine.
Standing at the side, Jin Yang was more anxious than the physicians, but he was steady in personality, and worried that he would disturb Gu Ru Jiu. So he did not scold these physicians, and looked at the pale Gu Ru Jiu with an ugly expression.
“Hmm?” The physician taking the pulse was puzzled. He changed from the right hand to the left. Seeing Jin Yang’s expression grow uglier, he finally took his hand back, and said with a relaxed expression, “Your Majesty, the empress is fine. She may be a bit tired, and just needs a few days of rest.”
“But why has she not awakened yet?” Jin Yang walked to sit at the bedside, and lightly held Gu Ru Jiu’s hand. His hands were cold, and her hand was warm. “She also does not look well.”
The imperial physician thought, can I say that this is because the empress did not sleep well?
What a pity, he did not dare to say it. So after a pile of meaningless words, he hesitantly said, “Your Majesty, this subject feels that the empress’ pulse is a bit slippery. But the time is short, and this subject is not sure. Maybe after a few days, it will not be like this.”