As monarch, Emperor Longfeng was naturally cognizant of Ming Jingzhou’s emphatic unwillingness to let his daughter marry into the imperial family. However, the Ming family’s daughter was the best candidate.
The three brothers of the Ming family were honest and upstanding officials whose hearts encompassed both the court and the common people. For Chen wang, joining their family was the best choice.
In the past, he’d always regretted that the three brothers only had sons at their knees and could not become his kin through marriage. Now that the daughter of the Ming family’s third brother had been found and restored, if he didn’t act now, when should he act?
A thin-skinned person could not be Emperor.
Emperor Longfeng contemplated for a moment, and instructed the palace maids to deliver a few more paintings to Mingyue Palace. Beloved Consort was seldom in such a refined and elegant state of mind; he needed to nurture it more.
In comparison to the crestfallen Ming Jingzhou who was retreating in defeat, Jiuzhu had a delightful stay at Mingyue Palace. After admiring the painting with Noble Consort niangniang, she lingered behind to dine.
The meal tasted delicious, and the palace maids serving the food were considerate. Once the rice arrived, Jiuzhu ate with gusto and utmost satisfaction.
Noble Consort Su glanced at the empty dishes atop the table and gestured for the maids to remove the remaining plates.
This little girl appeared delicate, but she could really eat.
“Niangniang, His Majesty’s aides sent over a few collections of famed paintings.” A female official whispered in Noble Consort Su’s ear: “Should we present them to Miss Ming?”
Noble Consort Su lightly coughed, slanted a look at Jiuzhu who was rinsing her mouth and washing her hands, and murmured: “Next time, next time.”
Noticing Noble Consort Su conversing in a low voice with a female official, Jiuzhu imagined that they had matters to consult over. She wiped dry her hands and got up to salute: “It’s easy to tire in the afternoon. Niangniang should take a rest, chennu will come pay her respects to niangniang on a later day.”
Noble Consort Su smiled: “I won’t hold you, but this is our first meeting, I cannot let you leave with empty hands.”
That said, she instructed the maids to bring out the gifts that had been prepared in advance.
Gold and jade, all kinds of jadeite, silks and satin. The hands of more than a dozen palace maids were overflowing.
Inside the trays, jewelry of every description flashed with resplendent rays of light. Jiuzhu hugged her chest, temporarily unable to breathe.
Nothing to be done. After more than ten years of poverty with the two shifus, out of the blue, she laid eyes on so many precious stones and ornaments. Her eyes weren’t following orders; she couldn’t help but stare.
“These are all things that young girls are fond of, bring them back to play with.” Noble Consort Su spotted Jiuzhu’s wide-eyed look. “Do you like them?”
“Like.” Jiuzhu honestly nodded her head. Which normal young lady would dislike these sparkly and glittery things?
“It’s good that you like them.” Noble Consort Su was apparently very pleased with Jiuzhu’s answer, arranging for the most adept female official at her side to personally escort Jiuzhu out of the palace.
“Like I said, where would there be a little girl who doesn’t like pretty jewels?” Noble Consort Su leaned on the reclining couch: “You all said to gift books and paintings, what fun are those?”
Her personal maid smilingly said: “It is still niangniang who has foresight.”
“Not only does niangniang have foresight, this slave servant* perceives that Miss Ming and niangniang have the natural affinity of a mother and daughter**.” Another palace maid laughed lightly. “This slave servant was observing carefully just now. Miss Ming was very affectionate with niangniang, as if with an old companion not seen for many years.”
*奴婢 - a term of self-address used by girl servants
**缘分 - fate or chance that brings people together; predestined affinity or relationship; (Budd.) destiny
“This is known as… ‘those who aren't family won't enter through the family's door.’”*
*不是一家人，不进一家门 - idiom that means that marriages are predestined; people marry because they share common traits
Noble Consort Su was gladdened by the maids’ teasing words. Originally she was somewhat unwilling over this marriage, though in her heart she understood His Majesty’s intentions.
Most of the civil officials at court disliked her and her son, going so far as to call her a demoness consort behind her back. Their imperial son espousing the Ming family’s daughter would maybe not transform the civil officials’ opinions, but at the very least it could alleviate the conflicts between the two sides.
As for the deeper matters, Noble Consort Su did not feel like brooding over them, because even if she brooded it would be of no use.
But she hadn’t expected Ming Jiuzhu to be such an affectionate, lovable and pure little girl. She did not really resemble a child raised by a prominent aristocratic family with a literary reputation.
“What did you say, the meeting gift Noble Consort Su gave the Ming family’s Young Miss was a pile of gold and silver jewelry?”
Hearing the palace maid’s report, Consort Ning laughed out loud without restraint. “Merchant origins are merchant origins, her behavior is so utterly tawdry. Of the three brothers of the Ming family, two are zhuangyuan* and one is tanhua**. Each and every one of their sons are just and honest, handsome and talented gentlemen. How could they like these petty things?”
*状元 - top scorer in the palace examination (highest rank of the imperial examination system)
**探花 - title conferred on the scholar who won third place in the highest imperial examination
“Niangniang, this slave servant also heard that Sir Ming entered the palace today seeking an audience with His Majesty in hopes of breaking the engagement.”
“The decisions His Majesty makes, no one can change.” The smile on Consort Ning’s face slowly faded. “Ming Jingzhou’s efforts are all in vain.”
“Then what to do? What if the Ming family begins supporting Chen wang from now on…”
“Not possible.” Consort Ning interrupted the maid’s conjecture, categorically stating: “Since ancient times, how many families have existed that would abandon their own honor and glory to scheme in favor of the daughter they’ve married off?”
“Women,” Consort Ning smiled, but there was not the slightest hint of mirth in her eyes. “Are just tools for the family to weigh advantages and disadvantages.”
“Don’t say anymore, this palace understands.” Consort Ning coldly snorted: “I actually want to see what kinds of commotion Noble Consort Su will instigate with her future daughter-in-law.”
Since time immemorial, mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws have been at odds. Not to mention that one was a pampered consort with a merchant background, and the other was the daughter of an old literary family.
Wait and see, there will be noise and excitement in the coming days.
On a path inside the palace, Jiuzhu sat on the sedan chair and saw from afar a small child leading a few eunuchs in her direction.
The child wore brocade garments which did not bear the imperial family’s symbol. With a slightly raised chin and an extremely arrogant look, he scrutinized Jiuzhu who was atop the sedan chair: “Who are you?”
Jiuzhu lowered her head to consider him, earnestly explaining: “When asking someone else’s esteemed name, you should first declare your own identity.”
Kid was still young. He could still be saved if he lacked manners.
“I’m a small child, and also Qi wang’s younger cousin*.” The child lifted his head high and waited for Jiuzhu to take the lead: “You should give way to me.”
*表弟 - male cousin via female line
Even the niangniangs in the palace treated him with the utmost respect. Noble daughters, when they saw him, would normally say a few words of their own accord.
Jiuzhu retracted her gaze and stopped paying attention to him.
Kids who were rude and good for nothing were likely spoiled.
“Greetings gugu.” One of the eunuchs following behind the child recognized Mingyue Palace’s female official. Face leeching of color from fright, he knelt down at once to salute. “Zheng gongzi is still young, asking gugu to please excuse him if his speech is improper in any way.”
Mingyue Palace’s female official smiled and said: “I’m only carrying out niangniang’s order to send the Ming family’s Young Miss out of the palace. I cannot accept gonggong’s courtesy.”
Ming family’s Young Miss?
The little eunuch’s knees gave out and he kowtowed on the ground. The news of His Majesty charging the Minister of Rites to act as a personal go-between and appoint the Ming family’s Young Miss as Chen wangfei had spread throughout the harem long ago.
Even if you gave him ten guts, he still would not dare to offend the future Chen wangfei.
Jiuzhu was at loss. Why did he kneel down without a word?
The stinky brat did not realize that the eunuch next to him was scared out of his wits. He spotted the phoenix tail hairpin in Jiuzhu’s hair: “Your hairpin is beautiful.”
In the past, he only had to open his mouth like this and the other side would straightaway give him the object.
“Oh.” Jiuzhu stroked the hairpin, nodding: “I also think so.”
The little kid looked at Jiuzhu.
Jiuzhu looked at the little kid.
What, he wanted her to compliment his vision?
“Young Master.” The eunuch prostrated on the ground tugged at the hem of his clothes. “This is the Ming family’s Young Miss, His Highness Chen wang’s fiancée.”
This one you really cannot offend.
Young Master Zheng pulled his gown out of the eunuch’s grip, muttering in a low voice. “Turns out she’s related to the demoness consort.”
The smiling expressions of the maids from Mingyue Palace did not vary, as if they hadn’t heard his words. On the other hand, those little eunuchs were so frightened their faces had turned ashen and they were trembling from top to bottom.
Jiuzhu doubtfully glanced at Mingyue Palace’s female official. The other person subtly nodded at her.
Only then did she realize that the demoness consort the rotten little kid’s mouth referred to was Noble Consort Su.
“Miss Ming, the words of children, you don’t need to take it to heart.” Noticing Jiuzhu’s furrowed brow, Mingyue Palace’s female official bent a knee towards her and said, “Niangniang also won’t argue with little kids.”
“Nianniang is kindhearted and magnanimous, but this doesn’t mean that other people can talk drivel.” Jiuzhu’s hands felt a little itchy. If they were in Lingzhou, this kind of blathering brat would have been beaten long ago.
The kneeling eunuchs thought there was a problem with their ears. Exactly what kind of nonsense was Miss Ming spouting?
“When children aren’t sensible, most of the time it’s because they don’t take their studies seriously on a day to day basis.” Jiuzhu regarded herself as someone who could talk reason. If a child committed an offense and it was inconvenient to smack him, then one should go find the family head: “Just now you guys said that this young master is His Highness Qi wang’s younger cousin?”
When handling such trivial matters, you could never go wrong by informing the family head.
But which prince was Qi wang? No matter, that wasn’t important.
“Gugu, how about we send this young master to His Highness Qi wang’s side and let His Highness Qi wang supervise and instruct him?” Jiuzhu pondered for a bit, and supplemented two more sentences: “His Highness Qi wang is cultivated and refined. He will definitely be able to correct the errors in this young master’s speech.”
She had no idea what Qi wang’s appearance was, but praising someone’s temperament was all platitudes anyway.
“Yes.” The female official smiled slightly. “This slave servant receives the command.”
Watching the wretched brat being led away, Jiuzhu lightly humphed. Rotten little kid, what did he know of women?
Noble Consort niangniang was obviously a fairy.
Within two days, the news that the Ming family’s Young Miss was engaged to Chen wang had spread through the entire capital city.
“We are all aware of Sir Ming’s disposition, Sir Ming need not feel awkward.”
“A married daughter is like spilt water. Sir Ming, move on, move on.”
Ming Jingzhou shook off all these civil officials who were consoling him and stepped into the horse carriage with a blank face.
It was easy for them to say -- after all, the one marrying wasn’t their family’s daughter. Was this a matter that could be easily overcome?
So what if it was a daughter, you wouldn’t love her dearly just because she was a daughter?
As a depressed old father, Ming Jingzhou looked at these colleagues with whom he normally had a good relationship and suddenly felt that they were unpleasant to the eye.
Returning home, he gazed at his clever, cute and pretty daughter and almost let loose two rivers of bitter tears.
Seeing his expression, Shen shi knew that he was still incapable of accepting their daughter’s impending marriage to Chen wang. While comforting him, she asked their nephew to take Jiuzhu out for a stroll.
These past few days she was continually concerned over personal gains and losses, so much so that she didn’t dare let their daughter go out the door. It was as if their daughter would disappear if she stepped outside, never to be seen or heard again.
Jiuzhu was very well-behaved. Forbidden from leaving, she kept her mother company inside the mansion and never made noise about going outside.
But His Majesty was unshakable in his desire to make her daughter Chen wangfei. As a mother, she needed to force herself to learn to let go. She didn’t want to imprison her daughter because of her guilty love; that wasn’t love, but harm.
“Daughter doesn’t like going outside and wants to stay with you at home.” Jiuzhu gently held Shen shi’s hand, her eyes brighter than a vast sky of stars.
“I have some things to do with your father. Go with your elder cousin and help me pick out several cases of rouge to bring back.” Shen shi smilingly helped her arrange her silk cape. “Go, tonight I’ll have the kitchens make your favorite dishes.”
“Then Daughter will return very soon.” Jiuzhu squeezed Shen shi’s hand and stood up to head outside.
Shen shi subconsciously also got up and headed towards the door. After two steps, she forced herself to stop.
“Mother.” Jiuzhu, who’d already walked outside, swiveled her head around and smiled at Shen shi with curved eyes. “Don’t forget, tonight I want to eat eggplant.”
The instant her daughter turned back with a smile, Shen shi’s heart calmed down.
Her child was here.
Like a normal child, she did not forget to act spoiled with her family when going out, rehashing what she wanted to eat tonight.
T/L Note: One of the things I love the most about this novel is how loving the parents are, from Jiuzhu's mom and dad to Noble Consort Su and Emperor Longfeng.
Aside from the new update, I also went back and made some edits to the titles/honorifics in the past chapters. The next chapter will probably be up on Sunday – our infamous hero is finally making an appearance!