Published at 13th of December 2019 05:39:37 AM

Chapter 185

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As the coach kept going, Minglan heard the sound coming through from the outside. She realized that they must have entered into the outer imperial city. After a while, they arrived at the gate of the inner city. Then the couple got off the coach and changed to a small sedan with green curtains and a horse which had been prepared for them long ago. Gu Tingye rode on the horse and Minglan got into the sedan. They went forward for a bit longer. As they arrived at the East Splendid Gate, they should start walking now. A few imperial servants guided the way ahead of them.

On the way, Minglan, not daring to raise her head and look around, only followed Gu Tingye and walked slowly with her head lowered. However, even so, she was still able to sense that the overall arrangements inside of the palace were truly magnificent. All the stairs were made by white jade, all the pillars were decorated with gold and painted by hands. Everywhere in this place seemed spacious and magnificent.

After they had entered into a side palace, a middle-aged maid in cyan brocade clothes with dark fringes came out and reported with a smile, “Master Gu, Madam Gu, please come in. The Empress Dowager is expecting the two of you.”

Gu Tingye glimpsed at Minglan, finding her being strangely calm right now and showing no flurried look on her face. Then he also got relaxed. After they had passed two palace hallways and crossed the high doorsill with the guide of that maid, they finally entered into the main palace.

The burning ambergris in the red copper censer sent out thin plumes of smoke, which made the room be suffused with exquisite fragrance. The bright and clean marble floor could nearly reflect people’s figure. The two empress dowagers were sitting upright in the honored seats of the hall. On the left was a noble lady in a brilliant yellow dress of the royal style, who seemed to be around twenty-seven or twenty-eight. That must be the empress. There were two screens by their sides, behind which came vaguely the aroma of the make-up and the sound of the jewelries wobbling. From the gap between the screen and the ground, Minglan could also see the lower hems of the brocade dresses. So perhaps the people behind the screen were the harems or the imperial concubines.

Gu Tingye and Minglan knelt down and kowtowed while expressing their gratitude. Then they heard a gentle voice saying, “Get up. You two are a bit late. The sister-in-law and younger sister of the empress have already arrived.”

The empress turned around and said with a gentle smile, “Mother, please don’t blame them. After all, they live very far. The edicts have seen sent to the three families at the same time. So the Gu’s family must have been the last to receive it.”

Minglan stood up and gave a quick glance at the people in front of her. Then she found out the voice she had just heard were from the right. This empress dowager was gorgeous and had a fair skin with an elegant manner and a gentle smile. However, although the empress dowager on the left was also well preserved, she still showed her age and even seemed a bit nervous.

Then, Minglan basically told them apart. Empress Dowager De measured Gu Tingye with her eyes and then said smilingly, “You surely a different man after you got married. Look how amiable you have become.”

The empress wasn’t very gorgeous, but she did have two bright and pretty eyes. With a dimple appearing on one side of her face, she chuckled and then said, “Mother, you do have a good sight. I also found him politer than before. At that time when His Majesty was at the border of the Shu State, Tingye wore that long beard all the year round. I always found him look very fierce from the distance. Every time he came back, Hui’er was so scared that she didn’t even dare to come out. Only Zaifu and Zaishun liked him a lot... Now that you have already got married, you have to live a good life, Tingye. Right, mother?”

Empress Dowager An only chuckled and replied perfunctorily without talking too much. Meanwhile, Empress Dowager De straightly ignored Minglan and only gave a long speech to Gu Tingye about how to regulate the family and rule the state as well as the importance of being patriotic and loyal to the throne. She talked about Confucius, Menci and Xuncius. Minglan glanced at Gu Tingye secretly, finding him being super cooperative and showing no sign of impatience. He also thanked the emperor for the seventy thousand ounces of silver and seven acres of farmland as well as countless silks which had been rewarded to him lately.

Empress Dowager De really was a great talker. The empress beside her chimed in with her from time to time. Empress Dowager An and Minglan both played the role as the audience. As the conversation continued, they spoke of the issues about the border trade. Empress Dowager De mentioned about her family’s position of garrisoning the border, “At that time, Jienu (T/N: An ancient nationality in China) invaded our territory. Under the urgent circumstances like that, His Majesty has ordered my father and my brother to retreat from the border. Now that the border is at peace, will the border trade be recovered?”

Gu Tingye answered, “It’s true that we have already repelled the Jienu, but the casualties of the border troop were heavy. I’m afraid that the border trade is not able to go on wheels without the protection of the army...”

At this moment, a maid came in from the outside and reported, “His Majesty is discussing important matters with other masters in the imperial study, he asked if Master Gu has come yet. Master Gu, please come to the imperial stay after you have finished expressing your gratitude. His Majesty needs you there.”

Empress Dowager De seemed to be a little disappointed. Nonetheless, she still smiled and said, “Since His Majesty has something important to talk with you, just go. Your wife can stay here and chat with us.”

Gu Tingye bent down and agreed. Before he left, he glimpsed at Minglan with worried look in his eyes. Minglan nodded slightly, trying to calm him down. Then he followed that maid out of the Palace of Benevolent Peace.

The moment Gu Tingye left, the empress asked someone to carry the screens away. Then three young noble madams came out from the left while four beauties in palace dress walked out from the right. They walked up with beaming smiles and then crowded the empress and the two empress dowagers. As they sized Minglan up, she couldn’t help but whine inwardly, ‘Whoops! I’m the next target!”

“Come here, come closer, let me look at you.” Express Dowager De waved her hands to Minglan with a smile.

Hearing that, Minglan moved slowly toward Empress Dowager De. This was the first time in her life she ever walked so seriously. She had to keep the lower hem of her dress steady and couldn’t look too stiff or stagy according to Momo Kong’s lessons. In the meantime, she also needed to show her reverence and kindness with her movements and facial expression.

Empress Dowager De held Minglan’s hand while looking at her carefully, then sighed, “They all told me that Gu Tingye’s new wife is a beauty. Today, I finally believe that.”

Minglan only pretended to be bashful with her eyes looking down without saying anything. Meanwhile, she thought, “You are a good-looking woman too. Let me introduce you to Suet-Fa Kong, you two look exactly the same.’

Note: Suet-Fa Kong was born on May 19, 1948 in Shanghai, China. She is an actress, known for Wo You Wo Feng Kuang (1997), Lost Control (1997) and A Simple Life (2011). At age 47, she was a contestant and finalist at the 1995 Miss Asia Pageant.

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The empress also looked Minglan up and down. Seeing the latter behaving in a becoming manner without making any mistake, the empress couldn’t help praising, “Tingye is so lucky. Not only is she a beautiful woman, I just really like her decent behaviors. Have you been taught by a teaching Momo in your family?”

Minglan replied tamely, “We had one Momo a few years ago.”

“Which one? Is she from the palace?” Hearing that, the empress asked.

“Yes. She is Momo Kong who used to work in the Shanggong Office in the Imperial Palace.”

“Momo Kong?” It was the first time Empress Dowager An said something on her own initiative. It seemed that she hadn’t recovered from the cold and the cough with that raucous voice, “Is she a tall woman with a square face?”

“Yes.” Minglan said with a smile, “There is also a mole on the left of her forehead.”

Hearing that, Empress Dowager An put on a smile on her aged face, saying, “Momo Kong has worked in the palace for a long time... She really is a good person. How is she doing now?”

“We still get letters from her from time to time. She said that she has already bought some farmlands at her hometown. She lives a leisure life now. Also, her nephew is very filial to her. I mean, she lives a good life.” Minglan glanced at Empress Dowager De. The latter was drinking tea with her head lowered, seeming to pay no attention to their conversation.

Empress Dowager An seemed to care about Momo Kong a lot and asked Minglan a lot of things. As a matter of fact, Momo Kong’s condition was not very well. There might only be a few years before she reached the end of her life. Minglan couldn’t say that fact out loud to Empress Dowager An, so she had to think over the words she used and conveyed the condition of Momo Kong in an obscure way.

Hearing Minglan’s words, Empress Dowager An said in a low voice with depression in her eyes, “She has sacrificed herself in the palace for her whole life. It’s good to know that she could enjoy her old age in peace. Even if she doesn’t have so many days left.”

Minglan stared at her. Empress Dowager An was not as tactful as every other people in the palace. Instead, this woman seemed very innocent and straightforward. It looked like she knew that she wasn’t a good talker, so she chose to talk less.

After they chatted for a short while, the empress asked everyone to sit. Only until then was Minglan able to rest her sour legs and feet. As she listened to their conversations, she tried to recognize those women secretly. The four beauties in the palace dresses were all imperial concubines. The most beautiful and charming one of them was Imperial Concubine Rong, who was favored by the emperor the most for the moment. The short and lovely woman with snow white skin was Zhaoyi Yu who had just been conferred the title. The other two concubines had married to the emperor before he had ascended the throne, one was a Jieyu while the other one was a Cairen-- To conclude, since the emperor hadn’t picked new girls to enter the palace, those imperial women have lots of opportunities to struggle for themselves. Maybe some modern girls would like to do the time travel here and become the wife of the emperor.

Note from the translator: Zhao'yi, Jie’yu and Cai’ren are all the titles of the imperial harem. The rank of the imperial harem should be as follows:

Empress (皇后 Huang Hou), Imperial Noble Consort (皇贵妃 Huang Gui Fei), Noble Consort (贵妃 Gui Fei), Consorts (妃 Fei), Imperial Concubines (嫔 Pin), Lady of Handsome Fairness (婕妤 Jie’yu), Lady of Bright Deportment (昭仪 Zhao’yi), Lady of Bright Countenance (昭容 Zhao’rong), Noble Ladies (贵人Gui’ren), Talented Ladies (才人Cai’ren)…something like that. They are too complicated to list in a way…

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