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The black carriage passed through the tall city gates. Jin Yang could hear how lively the streets were through the curtains. He gripped the jade pendant hard. He was trying to control the smile on his face, so much it was distorted.
He had finally come to the capital, to this place.
He was very curious about the world. But from start to end, he sat there upright, and did not lift the curtain.
After some time, there was the sound of laughter coming from outside, and he could faintly hear words of the Li and Sima families.
He released the jade pendant and his expression turned cold.
Later, the carriage stopped at a building. When Jin Yang entered the courtyard, he heard the servants mention that this place was used to receive the envoys from other countries and the vassal princes.
Now, there were five sons of vassal princes living here. One of them would become the future emperor. So the servants did not dare to slight them, and were polite and careful in front of them.
In Jin Yang’s memories, he had rarely received such treatment. He looked at these careful servants, and took a sip of tea.
“Young Master, there is no new tea here—please understand.” The steward of the building saw Jin Yang drink the tea expressionlessly and thought he was dissatisfied. He bowed, stating the cause and asking for forgiveness.
“No matter.” He shook his head and did not say more.
The steward sighed in relief and after leaving, thought, the eldest legitimate son of Prince Cheng really had an imposing presence. He had heard that the other’s maternal family was the Sima Clan. No wonder he was like this.
Then they stayed in the building for more than a month. Other than teachers coming to teach them daily, the emperor did not summon them.
Jin Yang’s second brother and the illegitimate son of Prince Rui could not sit still, going out together each day to play. His third younger brother hid in the courtyard and did not come out. Jin Yang and Prince Rui’s heir, Jin Liang, appeared outstanding.
But Jin Yang knew that a few years ago, Prince Rui had asked to make Jin Liang his heir, so the possibility that the emperor would adopt Jin Liang was not great.
They stayed another fortnight or so in the building. The previous emperor had not held court for more than ten days, but still did not summon them, the sons from the prince establishments. Jin Yang worked to absorb knowledge from all sides as he thought, the current emperor must be very unwilling.
He had done as he pleased for half of his life, but had no son of his own to inherit his throne. To this proud and mediocre emperor, this was a great blow.
But regardless of whether he was willing or not, all people were equal in the face of death.
Jin Yang was woken up from bed during the night. Hearing the sound of mourning bells outside, his eyes opened wide. The emperor had passed away?
In this moment, he had complicated emotions. Anticipation, terror, helplessness and anxiousness.
The carriage moved quickly. As he sat in the swaying carriage, he lifted up a corner of the curtain. The streets were pitch-black, endless, borderless and empty.
Suddenly, threads of light appeared ahead. He looked over, and using the light from the two white lanterns hung by the gates, he saw the words on the plaque.
Jin Yang had heard of this family but knew very little. He just knew that the patriarch of this family was very talented, and his two sons were also accomplished.
The carriage gradually moved away. He could not resist turning back. He saw the large white lanterns at the Gu gates sway in the wind, and this inexplicably comforted him.
Getting out of the carriage, he heard his second brother behind him snort. He looked at the blue-robed eunuch leading the way and pretended not to hear.
“Do not dream you can become the emperor.”
Jin Yang turned back and glanced at his second brother with his twisted face. Then he looked away.
When he met the empress dowager, he found the empress dowager was younger and warmer than he imagined. When her gaze landed on him, he knew that he was the future emperor.
After becoming the emperor, he had countless people around him who wanted to gain favour, as well as famed masters that he dreamed about in the past to teach him. He knew all this had been given to him by power. Regardless of how these famed people said how noble they were, and how much they did not seek fame or benefit, back when he was a young master of a prince establishment that did not have favour, no famed person came to teach him, much less praise him for being talented. But after becoming the emperor, these people flattered and praised him, as though he was the smartest and most capable person.
Fortunately, he was used to seeing the ugliness of people. He did not find these people laughable, just driven by self-interest.
Among his teachers, there was only one special person—Gu Chang Ling. This person came from an aristocratic family, but did not have the pretension and hypocrisy of the aristocratic families. When he did well, Gu Chang Ling would praise him, and when he did not do well, Gu Chang Ling would criticize him.
“Your characters have the shape, but no character. Although an emperor does not have to be skilled in calligraphy, you cannot slack off.” Gu Chang Ling shook his head after seeing his writing. “The world always judges people by their appearance, and views people by their writing. Your Majesty, as the emperor, if your writing is too soft, the court officials will think you are gentle and able to be bullied—not good.”
“Teacher is right.” When people around you all said you were good, when one person dared to stand up and say what was not good, they appeared rare and valuable.
After they became familiar, Gu Chang Ling once said with a smile, “Your Majesty’s writing now can compare to my daughter’s.”
Jin Yang said curiously, “Teacher’s daughter is skilled in calligraphy?”
“Though not as good as her two brothers, it is viewable.” Gu Chang Ling shook his head and laughed. “But my wife, her brothers, and her older sister all favour her, and raised her to have a lazy personality—really a little not up to par.”
While he said so, Jin Yang could see that Teacher Gu loved his daughter very much.
This was likely the “paternal love like a mountain” people spoke of.
The first time he met Teacher Gu’s daughter, he did not know that she was his daughter, just thought she was the pampered girl of some family. She stood by the palace path like a beautiful jasmine flower, adorable at a glance.
Later, he learned she was the daughter Teacher Gu spoke of. In his view, this girl called Gu Ru Jiu was more lively and likable than Teacher Gu said.
Just as he thought that the seat of the emperor was the most important gift in his life, he suddenly found he had romantic feelings towards Jiu Jiu.
In this world, only Jiu Jiu would give him presents that ordinary people should have. Only Jiu Jiu would look at him like she was looking at a person and not an emperor.
In her eyes, he was alive, a person, and not an emperor wearing a crown who had no emotions.
When Jin Yang learned that the Sima Clan wanted to send their miss into the palace, he almost laughed in front of Sima Hong. What did the Sima Family think he was? Ignoring him when not needed, and shoving women at him when they wanted?
Sima Hong was a smart person. After he left, he betrothed his granddaughter. But his younger brother, Sima Peng, did not seem as smart.
All the women in the world wanted to be empress, but there was only one emperor.
He did not like the women of the aristocratic families very much because these women would all make him think of his mother, Sima shi. He held complicated emotions towards his mother.
People often said that mothers became strong for their child, but his mother did not seem to be able to do this. But there was nothing to blame. No one ruled that when women encountered an unreliable man, they had to love their child.
At least, she bore him and gave birth to him. At least, she did her best for him. Compared to his father, Prince Cheng, she was much better.
In the past, he did not know why Prince Cheng treated him like that, until he became the emperor and started to have his own people. He investigated the matter and learned why.
Prince Cheng suspected that he was not his son.
This was absurd and laughable. Did Sima shi and Prince Cheng not know whose child he was?
When he kept on investigating. he found that the relationships of the last generation were chaotic and ridiculous. These aristocratic families looked elegant and dignified on the surface, but were dirty inside.
As to whose son he was, it was not so important.
A premature birth, a false premature birth with another person being the father—what was the difference?
No one took care of him after he was born, and he lived days in the prince establishment where he fought for food with the dogs. Where did he care who his real father was?
Now, he was the emperor, he ruled the world, he could protect the person he loved, and he could make this country more prosperous, so his children would not live as he had lived.
He was too busy; he had no attention to spare for those unimportant matters and people. Also, he had the most important person by his side. She would think of ways to make up for his childhood.
She would take him to eat the things she ate as a child, to see the places she did as a child. She would inquire about the things that children played with in Jin Prefecture, and then pretend to be curious, coming to him with them, playing with them and asking for guidance.
In reality, he was not very interested in these things, but to not waste her efforts, he would pretend to be very serious and explain to her.
She knew that he did not know much about how to play with these toys, but would pretend not to see it. Then she would let him play with all these things he did not have before.
He was very happy, but only about her thoughts.
She saw he was happy, and was happy as well, thinking that he did not have any past regrets.
When she smiled, she was beautiful, her dimples enchanting his mind.
If she really wanted to be a demoness, then he thought he would follow her.
But she always did not bear to treat him badly, so he also had no chance to be a bad emperor.
Translator Ramblings: We are in the epilogue parts. Some different perspectives with Jin Yang.