This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
Gu Ru Jiu did not say anything wrong. After she got pregnant, some of the palace maids started to have thoughts. Those who secretly sent glances, pretended to be pitiful, and tried to show themselves different from the rest.
In the face of great benefit, anyone would display great potential. Gu Ru Jiu never dared to underestimate any person—whether as noble as a grand princess, or as lowly as an eunuch. Those people each had their own interests, therefore none of their actions could be dismissed.
“Your Majesty, do you want to meet that palace maid?” Qiu Luo saw that Gu Ru Jiu did not have a good expression, and thought that she was angry. She hurriedly said, “If you want to meet her, this servant will have them bring her.”
“No need.” Gu Ru Jiu touched her slightly raised belly. “He Ming did well on this.” Right now, what was most important was not whether these palace maids had ambition, but whether Jin Yang had a clear attitude.
Jin Yang did not disappoint Gu Ru Jiu. Other than taking care of state matters, he kept Gu Ru Jiu company in Purple Imperial Hall all day. Because this was Gu Ru Jiu’s first child, Jin Yang was extra cautious. He almost put Gu Ru Jiu into his pocket, and carried her with him all day.
When some palace maid tried to come near him, he was actually more nervous than Gu Ru Jiu. You ask him why?
What if Jiu Jiu was angry because of this, and the fetus was disturbed? Imperial Physician Zhao had said long ago that the first child of a woman was very important. If something happened, it would harm the woman’s body greatly.
He did not care about other things, but he was very careful about Jiu Jiu’s health. Because his own health was not good, he knew how bad the feeling of being ill was. He did not want Jiu Jiu to suffer as he usually did.
“Your Majesty, this subject thinks that this is not appropriate! Nobles should be punished the same as the common people.”
“Your Majesty, although that is true, this…”
Jin Yang refocused, and saw two groups of people arguing below. This was about Young Master Zhou bullying others with his power, and injuring two scholars.
The Zhou Family was the empress dowager’s paternal family. While they had been incompetent and muddle-headed in these years, they had never caused trouble. Who knew this young master was so confused this time that he beat up a scholar.
The most powerful thing about a scholar was their mouth. You hitting a scholar was akin to hitting the face of all scholars. No wonder these scholars at court were full of righteous anger and jumping up and down. If he did not know better, he would think that Young Master Zhou had beaten them.
After being the emperor for a few years, Jin Yang knew the personalities of the officials, and let them fight. In the end, he summoned Young Master Zhou to argue for himself.
Young Master Zhou was not skilled in the civil or military arts, but he had a good appearance. Adding on that the empress dowager was his aunt, he was not nervous when he came to court. He bowed respectfully to Jin Yang, and then spoke of the events.
“Originally, this subject just disliked them for speaking nonsense, and prepared to change places to eat, but then they directed their talk at the empress dowager and the empress. This subject was angry, and then fought them.” Young Master Zhou was very direct. He was the heir to a marquis, and spoiled from childhood. He did not care how many people he would offend with his words, and spoke directly.
Hearing that this was related to the empress dowager and the empress, Jin Yang frowned, and his gaze swept the civil officials that had bowed their heads and were pretending to be quails. He said gravely, “What did they say?”
“They said, said…” Young Master Zhou’s eyes moved. He looked up and saw that Jin Yang did not have a good expression. His head shrank back in fear. “They said the empress dowager is biased in favor of the empress, and is stopping Your Majesty from taking consorts. The empress is the master of the inner palace, but dominates Your Majesty and is jealous…”
Seeing the emperor’s face darken, Young Master Zhou’s volume kept decreasing. In the end, he did not dare to continue speaking.
“Zhen has deep feelings for the empress, and the empress is considerate of Zhen. Also, Zhen has said long ago that Zhen will not take consorts,” Jin Yang said gravely. “These two scholars do not work hard on their studies, and dare to copy the gossipmongers and raise matters of the inner palace. Is this the scholarly way?”
The officials present were dumbstruck. Those two scholars dared to say such things? Who in the world did not know that the emperor had been angry at court because others tried to force him to take consorts before? After that, no one at court had dared to mention this matter in front of His Majesty again.
It was slightly unreasonable to say that this was the empress’ fault. The emperor himself was not willing, so what did this have to do with the empress? You two scholars—why bother about this? You even got overheard by the empress dowager’s family. You really deserved to be beaten.
“Your Majesty, these are just Heir Zhou’s words. This subject thinks the two scholars should be summoned as well, and they should face each other to distinguish truth from falsehood.” An imperial censor came out and almost said that Young Master Zhou was lying.
Young Master Zhou snorted, and used his vivid expression to show his discontent.
This imperial censor heard the snort, and took a small step to the side, indicating without showing any expression on his face that he disdained to be on the same side as Young Master Zhou.
The other officials looked sympathetically at him. We know you have a spine, but do not show it so obviously. No matter how incompetent the Zhou Family is, that is still the empress dowager’s paternal family, His Majesty’s maternal family in name. You disdain the Zhou Family so obviously in front of His Majesty—who are you looking down on?
According to the rules, scholars that had not passed the exams could not come to court, but the case had reached the emperor and was related to the two most noble women in the dynasty, the empress and the empress dowager. So when a person should not follow the rules, they could only open one eye and close one eye.
Liang Yu had not thought that he could come to the throne room before he had passed his exams. He was both nervous and afraid. When he stepped on the jade stairs outside of Jinluan Hall, he did not dare to lift his head or look around. His companion was the same as him. The two timidly followed behind the imperial guard, and did not dare to breathe.
The tiles on the ground of the throne room were so clean. The moment Liang Yu stepped in, he felt dizzy. After taking a few steps, he then bowed deeply.
The hall was silent. Many people thought they would see elegant scholars. But two poor students who were timid and not gentlemanly had come in. The imperial censor who had originally spoken for them could not help but frown.
Such people did not look like upright gentlemen who did not fear power.
“Student Liang Yu greets Your Majesty—long live Your Majesty.” Liang Yu bowed, and then saw his almost twisted face reflected on the ground.
Jin Yang did not have an eidetic memory, but he had some impression of the person standing below. A few months ago, when he took Jiu Jiu out of the palace to have fun, they had met a boastful scholar in Delicious Fish Tower. Wasn’t it this person?
Back then, when this person spoke of the Gu Family, he had not been polite at all. If they had not been outside the palace and he did not want to ruin Jiu Jiu’s good mood, he would have taken care of this person long ago.
Jin Yang looked at the two scholars, and did not call for them to rise. The officials present knew that the emperor was not pleased, so no one went forward to help. Liang Yu and his companion could only remain bowing.
“Zhen has seen you before.”
The words were like thunder to people’s minds. They all looked at the two students, and did not know what was so special about them that His Majesty would remember them.
They were ordinary in appearance, and did not have much of a bearing. Their timidity actually was special. Was it because their cowering was so distinctive that they were remembered?
The officials were shocked and so was Liang Yu. He looked up in confusion, and after seeing who was sitting up there, his legs gave out, and he half-knelt, half-sat on the ground.
Why was it him?!
The incident that had occurred a few months ago in Delicious Fish Tower had left an extremely deep impression on Liang Yu. After that, some of the students on good terms with him started to distance themselves. Even his two good friends found excuses not to meet up with him.
While he hated his classmates who changed with the wind and feared power, he was also afraid inside. He feared the important people he had encountered in Delicious Fish Tower would settle their accounts after the fact.
After waiting anxiously for a few months and seeing nothing happening, Liang Yu sighed in relief, and restarted his normal life. Each day, he read, practiced his writing, and when he had the free time, he would talk with some of his new friends about the world.
Two days ago, when he had been talking interestedly, a wastrel suddenly came out from the side, and led his manservants to beat him up without a word. There was no part of him that was unharmed, but there was no mark on his face.
A scholar being beaten up by a wastrel in the capital was a great embarrassment for the scholars, so the matter became an important issue. In reality, he did not want to pursue this matter. He knew, if the words he had said reached the emperor’s ears, he would have no chance of becoming an official in this lifetime.
Reality told him a truth—there was never the worst in the world, just even worse. He had never thought that the present emperor would be the important person he had encountered that day in Delicious Fish Tower.
Since he was the emperor, then the young woman who had asked him that day…
Thinking of what he had said that day, Liang Yu became more afraid, and started to tremble uncontrollably. He wanted to beg for mercy, but because he was so frightened, he could not open his mouth.
The civil officials saw him like this, and showed contempt on their faces. This person who was as afraid as a mouse dared to speak nonsense about the empress dowager and the empress. He really did not have brains.
Without even needing to ask, people could tell from Liang Yu’s reaction who was in the wrong. Heir Zhou was really not wrong in this matter. As the nephew of the empress dowager, the cousin of the empress, should he not protect their reputations?
While his means were rough, and it was not right to beat other people, at least his idea was good. Of course, if he had encountered this and reported it to an official rather than acting on his own, that would have been even better.
“A few months ago, you were full of discontent towards the aristocratic families and the nobility. You were even more critical of Zhen‘s in-laws. Zhen saw that you were new to the capital and may not know many things, so you were spared,” Jin Yang said seriously. “But a few months have passed, and you not only did not change but have become worse. You slander the empress dowager and the empress. Zhen feels great pain at this.”
The ears of the aristocratic family members perked up. What? This boy dared to slander their families? This could not be tolerated. Roll up your sleeves!
So the civil officials who had been speaking on behalf of Liang Yu and his friend changed their stance. They picked at the two from head to toe. Their aim was, we scholars do not have any horses that harm the herd like this. They were ashamed to be part of the same group as them.
In the end, this chatty Liang Yu was stripped of his scholarly honors, and because of his lack of virtue, his next three generations were not allowed to become officials.
Seeing Liang Yu’s ashen face, the aristocratic civil officials pulled down their sleeves and recovered their gentle appearance.
Since you look down on the aristocratic families, then they, as members thereof, can only let you see the power of our families.
Even the officials who came from common families did not stand up and speak for Liang Yu after the emperor spoke. In their view, while the officials of the common families were lonely, they did not need the addition of such dumb teammates.
This incident ended with Liang Yu and his friend losing their scholarly honors, and their descendants not allowed to become officials. Heir Zhou was put under house arrest for three months. When the news spread, many scholars expressed criticism of Liang Yu’s actions. Some felt, since that person slandered the empress dowager and the empress like this, he must have had bad intentions and been in cahoots with outsiders.
Some felt that Heir Zhou was righteous. While he did not have many accomplishments, he knew to protect his family, and was not rotten to the root.
No one had sympathy for Liang Yu, and no one tried to work to get mercy for him. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that a few days ago, they were furious at a wastrel bullying a scholar.
Who would speak for a scholar disliked by the emperor?
In Kangquan Palace, Empress Dowager Zhou looked at her sister-in-law, her attitude neutral. Seeing the other keep on trying to direct the topic to her niece, she frowned.
“You saw Ting Ting grow up, you understand her personality. If she comes to the palace to serve His Majesty, she will serve him well…”
“I said before—do not mention this again.” Empress Dowager Zhou’s expression darkened. “Disregarding that the empress is pregnant now and I do not want other women coming into the palace to stimulate her, even if she was childless, I would not agree to this.”
Mistress Zhou was slightly unhappy. What did the empress dowager mean? She would protect the girls of other families, but was not willing to have a daughter of her own family come into the palace? This was absurd.
“Your Majesty, this subject does not bear for my daughter to come into the palace, but right now, our family can’t reach the high and can’t accept the low. Ting Ting has a hard time finding a good husband. If she enters the palace, it is a way out.”
“You think that entering the palace is to enjoy glory and wealth?” Empress Dowager Zhou laughed in anger. “Back when this Grieving One entered the palace, how much suffering was there? Otherwise, where did your family’s marquis title come from?!”
“The previous emperor was…” Mistress Zhou still did not give up. She threw away her last bit of sense of shame. “But the present emperor is different from the previous emperor. If Ting Ting comes into the palace, she will not suffer like it happened in the past.”
“So she will not go be the wife of an aristocrat, and wants to enter the palace as a concubine.” The empress dowager’s face turned cold. “This Grieving One will not agree to this. If you have these thoughts, go find the emperor; otherwise, do not mention this again to this palace.”
Hearing this, Mistress Zhou knew that the empress dowager had decided not to let her daughter enter the palace. She could only wipe the corners of her eyes with a handkerchief. “This subject also does not want to trouble you with such matters, but what can this subject do?”
Her husband was useless, her son a wastrel. The entire marquis establishment just sat by and ate their savings. Other people looked down on them. She did not want her daughter to marry someone from a common family. Who would know of the difficulties there?
“Empress Dowager, the empress has come.” Matron Liu came in.
“Quick, see her in.” The empress dowager immediately showed a hint of a smile. In Mistress Zhou’s eyes, this was not very pleasant. How much face did she, this eldest sister-in-law, have with the empress dowager? How much status did Ting Ting, this niece, have with the empress dowager?
But the empress enjoyed the empress dowager’s affections. Before she married into the palace, she was frequently summoned by the empress dowager. Now, the empress dowager treated her like her daughter.
The more Mistress Zhou thought, the more unfair she felt it was. In the empress dowager’s mind, who was her actual niece?
Gu Ru Jiu rarely saw members of the Zhou Family in Kangquan Palace. One reason was that the empress dowager did not frequently summon them, and the second, they might miss each other in their visits.
Entering the inner hall, before Gu Ru Jiu could bow, Matron Liu helped her up. The empress dowager said, “You do not have to mind such manners in front of me—quick, sit down.”
“Mother-Empress is so considerate. This daughter-in-law will obey.” Then she took out a box the size of her palm. “I heard that Mother- Empress was not well recently, and does not like to use incense. This daughter-in-law has some soothing tea. Try it.”
The empress dowager was not polite with her, and had Matron Liu take it and hand it over. She opened the lid and smelled. Then she said with a smile, “It is really good.”
These things must have been sent into the palace by the Gu Family, so the empress dowager did not ask about the origin and just praised it. She was like a mother who received something her daughter gave her. Regardless of how good it was, she would first praise it.
Mistress Zhou sat silently at the side, and saw the empress dowager and empress interact. After waiting a while, she finally found a chance to interrupt. “Your Majesty is so filial.”
Gu Ru Jiu did not have a good impression of Mistress Zhou, so she only smiled politely and did not say much.
But Mistress Zhou did not rest, and continued to speak to Gu Ru Jiu, with such an eager attitude that it was suspicious.
It was not that Gu Ru Jiu was unkind, but this Mistress Zhou did not look like a person happy to praise others. So she just listened quietly, and waited for Mistress Zhou to speak her true intentions.
“Your Majesty is pregnant with the dragon son now, and the emperor likely lacks someone to serve him right now—how can you feel assured?” Mistress Zhou looked at Gu Ru Jiu with a smile.
Empress Dowager Zhou’s face darkened, and she said directly, “The emperor has so many eunuchs and palace attendants—could they not serve him well?”
“That being said, palace attendants are just palace attendants—how can they compare to a caring person?” Mistress Zhou said, “My daughter is of similar age to Your Majesty, and she has a gentle personality…”
“Mistress Zhou!” The empress dowager interrupted harshly. “You have misspoken.” She knew that her sister-in-law was stupid and impulsive. When she saw benefits, she forgot herself, and was short-sighted just like her big brother. But she had not thought that her sister-in-law was stupid to this degree.
How stupid was a person to recommend her own daughter in front of the empress?
If the empress was not favored, not pregnant, and was close to the Zhou Family, she might consider this. But ever since her mother had passed away, the Gu and Zhou families did not have many interactions. How could she be close to the Zhou Family? Also, the emperor and empress were in harmony, and the emperor was in love with the empress. In a situation like this, the empress would not agree unless something was wrong with her head.
Gu Ru Jiu saw the different responses from the empress dowager and Mistress Zhou. She knew that the empress dowager would not agree to this, and this was just Mistress Zhou’s wishful thinking.
She put down her teacup, gave a small smile to Mistress Zhou and said, “This palace fears that this palace cannot agree to Mistress Zhou’s request.”
Mistress Zhou did not dare to speak after being shouted at by the empress dowager, but her unresigned eyes were still locked on Gu Ru Jiu.
Gu Ru Jiu kept her smile as she saw this gaze. “The emperor has to take care of state matters every day, and also has to care of this palace, and this palace’s baby. He likely will not have the energy for other women.”
Mistress Zhou gaped at Gu Ru Jiu’s stunning words. What did she mean by the emperor having to take care of her?!
That was the emperor, the master of all the people—how could…
Even as stupid as she was, she knew that something was not right. The empress dared to say such things. It could be seen that she did not fear the emperor knowing. But how good was the relationship between the two that the empress was confident in saying something like this?
The empress dowager saw her sister-in-law’s terrified expression, sighed, and bowed her head, keeping silent.
She could not interfere too much in the matter today. Otherwise, if this reached the ears of the emperor, there would be a gap between her and His Majesty.
“Jiu Jiu is right—Zhen is concerned with matters of state, and taking care of the wife. There is no more attention for other women. Aunt, do not mention this again.” Jin Yang strode into the hall, and sat down next to Gu Ru Jiu. He took Gu Ru Jiu’s hand and said, “Zhen has no intention of taking a concubine. Aunt, if you mention it again and Jiu Jiu is unhappy, Zhen will not feel comfortable.”
Mistress Zhou paled. She turned to the empress dowager who remained silent. She could only stand up, trembling, and bowed to Jin Yang. “This subject will not dare.”
The words were almost clearly saying—if she made the empress unhappy, then His Majesty would be angry.
How capable was the empress to have won over the ruler of a country like this?
Mistress Zhou did not understand. In her view, Gu Ru Jiu was not the most beautiful in the capital, did not have the best deportment, and was not the most noble or talented. She did not understand why the emperor was so devoted to her.
But no matter whether she did or did not understand, she did not dare to think now, much less mention sending her daughter into the palace. Her instinct told her, if she made the empress displeased, the emperor would not care for the empress dowager’s face, and would make the days of the Zhou Family hard.
“Mother- Empress, this son thinks you have other things to talk to Aunt about, and will not disturb you.” Jin Yang bowed politely to the empress dowager, and then led Gu Ru Jiu out of Kangquan Palace.
Seeing Jin Yang and Gu Ru Jiu depart, the empress dowager sighed, and looked with disappointment at Mistress Zhou. “If this Grieving One had known that you would be so muddle-headed today, this Grieving One would not have met you.”
“Empress Dowager…” Mistress Zhou was thoroughly panicked.
“Go back.” The empress dowager waved her hand tiredly. “Stay in your establishment for the near future, and do not cause any more trouble. Otherwise, not even this Grieving One can protect you.”
No one knew better than her how important Jiu Jiu was to the emperor.
Dragons had their inverse scales. Jiu Jiu was the emperor’s inverse scale that could not be touched.