This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
This was his wedding banquet, his second wedding banquet.
He smiled as he drank the wine the guests toasted, dealing with their teasing as he worried about the woman waiting in his wedding rooms.
Everyone saw his lack of attention, and knew he was worried about his bride. They teased him and toasted him a few more rounds before finally letting him go.
Leaving the hall, he felt the night wind come at him. His slightly tipsy mind immediately cleared.
The miss of the Wu Family was nine years younger than him, and in his mind, had been an innocent girl with a bit of a temper. He had never thought that this girl had romantic feelings towards him, and never married because of him.
From fifteen years old to twenty-four years old, how many nine years did each person have in their lifetime?
The cold came, and the heat left. Chen shi had passed away for more than ten years. The orange tree they had planted together had died and withered long ago, only leaving behind a rotten stump to prove it had once existed in the courtyard.
“Heir?” The servant girl holding the lantern saw Gu Zhi Yu suddenly stop and stopped as well.
Gu Zhi Yu glanced in the direction of the courtyard, and then looked away, putting his hands behind his back and exhaling. “Let’s go.”
He lifted the veil to reveal Miss Wu’s beautiful face. When he accidentally touched her with the tips of his fingers, coolness spread from his hand to his heart.
He stood up and took one of his cloaks to put over her. Then he took the two wine goblets from the table and put one in her hand.
The candlelight was warm. Their arms crossed, and twined together.
A few days later, Wu Dong Yun followed Yang shi into the palace to see the empress. She was close in age to the empress, but during her childhood, she had a temper and was not very close to the empress. So before entering the palace, she had thought of all kinds of possibilities. But the reality was the empress was very gentle, and even mentioned a few things from their childhood.
More than a decade had passed, but when they mentioned past matters, it was like it had been yesterday.
Time was a cruel and beautiful thing. It made the joyful times gradually fade away, and also had people, as time passed, get what they desired.
She was no longer young, but she married the man she had secretly liked for almost a decade.
That perfect young master who had been very far from her finally became her husband, her other half. She had not waited in vain these years.
When Wu Dong Yun left Qiankun Palace, Gu Ru Jiu gave her many things, and spoke of many of her husband’s preferences and habits.
“Eldest Brother is gentle, and if Eldest Sister-in-law is unhappy about anything, just tell him, and do not have any worries.” The empress held her hand and saw her off to the gates of Qiankun Palace.
“Your Majesty, do not worry.” She had loved him for many years, and did not bear for him to be sad.
“Eldest Sister-in-law.” When she was preparing to leave, the empress called her.
She turned and found Gu Ru Jiu’s eyes were red, seeming both joyful and sad.
In the end Gu Ru Jiu said nothing, just patted her hand, and then turned back with a smile.
Returning home, she mentioned this to her husband in confusion. But her husband only smiled and shook his head.
“Do not overthink. Jiu Jiu… Her Majesty just hopes that we will live well.” Gu Zhi Yu patted the top of her head and took out a box of pastries from a drawer to give to her.
“These are pastries from Celestial Residence?” Wu Dong Yun took the box and was moved. “How did you know I liked this?”
“Didn’t you mention it yesterday?” Gu Zhi Yu smiled gently. Seeing her eat one entire piece, he feared she would choke, and brought over a cup of tea.
Seeing her bend down to eat, Gu Zhi Yu’s smile slowly warmed up.
She had wasted almost a decade for him. How did he bear for her to waste the rest of her days?
When he returned to the capital, the capital was no longer the place of his memories.
The famed Li Family of the past had disappeared from people’s memories long ago. He took along candles and paper money to the Li Family tombs to burn incense.
The tomb was old and in disrepair, looking worn down, but there were no weeds. People clearly came frequently to clean this place.
After burning incense, he stood in front of Li Guang Ji’s tombstone, and felt lonely inside.
Many of the Li Family elders had been pulled into the case of treason and had been executed. He, this person who escaped from death, stood in front of the gravestones, and felt so lonely and ridiculous.
Mother and Father were not buried together in the end. The two were born at different times, and were buried in different places. He feared they would not meet in their next life.
“It’s Big Brother?”
He turned and saw a middle-aged farmer coming towards him with a hoe. When the other walked close, he saw this was Li Ji An, his cousin from the second branch.
Back then, Li Ji An had been a refined person in his attire and food. Now, he wore rough cloth clothing, his skin was dark, and he had a beard. There was even mud at the corners of his rolled-up pants.
“Ji An…” Li Huai Gu’s voice was slightly hoarse. He was unable to speak after squeezing out these words.
In a small tavern, the cousins ordered a pot of hot wine, two dishes and a plate of peanuts. Then they sat at the table and spoke of their experiences in these years.
“Fortunately, His Majesty did not kill everyone. People like you and I managed to escape.” Li Ji An took a sip of the slightly turbid hot wine and then grimaced. “You left for more than a decade—are you well?”
“Well.” Li Huai Gu swallowed the astringent wine. Tears appeared in his eyes at the spiciness. “Our family… who else…”
Who else was still alive? From the people exiled to the borders, had there been letters?
“No, no.” Li Ji An wiped the corners of his eyes, seeming to be both laughing and crying. He was in a sorry state. “After the first few years, there were no more letters. Maybe the days are too hard, so they could not send letters.”
He would rather think that rather than that they had all died at the borders, and could never return home.
The cousins sat for more than two hours in the small tavern. Li Huai Gu refused Li Ji An’s invitation of coming to his home and walked on the noisy streets, slightly drunk. Suddenly, there was the sound of drums and gongs ahead, and people moved on the streets.
“The young master of the Wang Family was accepted!”
“Accepted, accepted—my son was accepted!”
So this was another spring examination. He looked at the joyful and sad students, and suddenly found, the scenes of the past were right in front of his eyes.
The best years would not come again, like there were no two mornings in one day.
In his youth, he loved the best woman in the world. In his youth, he made poetry that stunned the world. In his youth, he had been near the top of the examination ranking and had been admired by countless students.
But the joy, the sorrow, the past—they would never come again.
He passed by a small teahouse at the side of the street. Two old storytellers were interestedly narrating the love story between the present emperor and empress.
He stopped, and found an empty seat. The waiter made him a bowl of tea, the inferior tea spinning in the hot water before sinking to the bottom.
“That day, the pear flowers were at their peak; His Majesty had just ascended the throne. He suddenly saw an adorable girl by the street and stopped, going forward to ask, Whose family are you from—why do you stay in the rain of pear flowers and do not leave?
“The girl’s hair was covered in flowers. She bowed to His Majesty—This young master, have you seen my lost pouch…”
The sun had been good that day. He had been on horseback, admiring the flowers. Suddenly, a girl had chased after him on a horse and reached a hand out to him.
“Young Master Li, is this the pouch you lost?”
The pouch was embroidered with fish playing among the lotuses and beaded with pearls. This was a pouch that his mother had made for him.
He took out the pouch now. It was terribly worn. The pearls on it had fallen down a long time ago, and only the pattern of the fishes and lotuses could still be barely made out.
“The handsome young master and the beauty met because of a lotus pouch. But he did not know she was the miss of a marquis family, and she did not know he was the present emperor…”
All the grievances, love and hate were just fabricated by the storytellers. Whether it was true or not was not important to the listeners who were just passersby.
And he too was just an unrelated passerby.
“Students, do you remember the main points of the college entrance history exams this year? The governance in the Delong Emperor’s prosperous rule is very important. Everyone, pay more attention.”
“Teacher, tell us more about the story between the Delong Emperor and Zhaohe Empress.”
“Their story has been filmed countless times in movies and TV shows. What more is there to say?”
“It is not the same. The TV dramas all make up fake events. It is not as interesting as your telling us.” The students all cheered. A female student said, “Delong Emperor and Zhaohe Empress are faithful protectors of monogamy. How great are their thoughts?”
The history teacher was helpless against these students. To relieve their pressure from the college entrance examination, the teacher helplessly started, “Since you are interested, then I will talk to you of Zhaohe Empress today.
“Zhaohe Empress was born from an aristocratic family, and was skilled in painting and calligraphy. Even now, our national museums have some of her works. She was a rare talented woman in history. Of course, this is not the most important. Historical sources show that she was an open-minded and farsighted woman.
“Everyone knows, since the start of the Delong Era, there were records of women as officials. Back then, the most famous case was that the fourth-ranked in the imperial examination was a woman. In the end, this woman, Zhang Tai, based on her ability, reached the position of Chief Justice of the Court. Later on, the historians called her the symbol of the rise of women.
“The matter back then was so intense. Why was Delong Emperor willing to withstand so much effort and let Zhang Tai keep her rank and serve as an official?
“According to records in the [Records of Feng: Stories of Famed Officials], when Zhang Tai met the emperor in the palace, Delong Emperor was cold to her. But Zhaohe Empress pleaded on her behalf, saying that there were women in history as generals, so why could women not be officials as well?”
All the girls in the class flushed, full of admiration towards this Zhaohe Empress from a thousand years ago. But that was so long ago that they could not meet her even if they wanted.
“Emperor and empress were in love their entire lives, and started a prosperous era. People say that Delong Emperor was the best in a thousand years, and a rare and faithful man.” The history teacher smiled and pushed up their glasses. “In my view, Zhaohe Empress is a rare woman in the world, thus Delong Emperor loved her for a lifetime, and the scholars respected her so much.
“Such two people…” The history teacher looked at the picture of the couple in the history book—”are rare in the world; a pity I did not see it.”
At least, the existence of the two let countless people believe true love existed.
As long as one did not fear, love was everywhere.
Translator Ramblings: This is done! The author always has such melancholic content in the epilogues. Big thanks to Adnana who is amazing at editing.
The first six unedited chapters of “Graft Life” (敛财人生) are on my patreon which is a slow slow transmigration story (different worlds/times) where the male lead does not show up until many chapters. This is an author I’ve never translated before. I’ve been holding off on posting anything here because I wanted to finish translating the first two worlds and these months have been very busy for me.
Thank you guys all for reading and commenting.