These words were a little offensive. The Zhenguo Duke hurriedly reprimanded her and then said apologetically to Emperor Xi: “Don’t mind her, your majesty. My granddaughter is ignorant due to her youth.”
Emperor Xi waved his hand, continuously saying it was fine. He smiled at this girl’s sincerity which was rather startling. He lamented how quite a few people who were older than her didn’t understand things as clearly.
People were a little confused by these words. Only a few understood his meaning.
The Zhenguo Duke was one of those people. He was the one who understood best.
If there was no familial affection between father and son in the royal family, then there naturally wouldn’t be any between siblings. Although Emperor Xi had inherited throne due to his position as the previous crown prince, it had still been a rather bumpy road. Emperor Xi was the eldest born of the principal wife, and had two younger brothers. Perhaps due to there being too many boys, the previous empress dowager didn’t cherish Emperor Xi much. Instead, she favored the two younger ones.
As the crown prince and the eldest principal son, he had more right to the throne than anyone else. The young Emperor Xi had already started learning strategy, civics and the way of the monarch from the imperial tutors while his younger brothers were still in their mother empress’s arms. Emperor Xi had to remain a perfect role model while his brothers could mess around under his mother empress’s indulgence.
Perhaps she had loved him at first. Which mom wouldn’t love their son?
But due to all sorts of hindrances, she had to hold her son to a higher standard since he was the crown prince. He would be the Grand Xi’s future ruler, so he had to be better at everything. If he wanted to be outstanding, he had to work very hard and naturally couldn’t play around like his younger brothers.
Gradually their relationship dulled and mother and son became distant. He was also not close to his brothers, and rarely spoke with them.
As Emperor Xi grew older, the empress kept asking him to treat his two brothers well in the future. His brothers had to yield everything because of him.
This was truly the case. They were all from the palace, but even though he wasn’t as cherished by his parents, he was still the successor due to seniority.
Emperor Xi understood this and was also rather lenient towards his mother empress and his brothers.
Perhaps it was due to this, or perhaps the empress had also been worried about the lack of brotherly affection within the royal family, but she was always afraid Emperor Xi wouldn’t treat his brothers well after ascending. Whenever he did something praiseworthy in front of the previous emperor, the empress would look agreeable on the surface yet speak the opposite in private. She wantonly praised her two younger sons while treating Emperor Xi differently…
Since he already got so much, why did he have to struggle for this little bit of affection with his brothers? Didn’t he know that his brothers would have to leave for their vassal states in the future and depend on his royal father’s affection for them, and his as their older brother?
He already has it so good, being able to stay with his parents and will be elevated above his brothers in the future. What more did he want?
Even though these words were never spoken out loud, Emperor Xi had understood.
It was because he understood that he felt even more heartache.
Am I not your son too?
Unfortunately these words could never be said. Furthermore, Emperor Xi had started getting involved in court affairs and became more and more busy. He didn’t have the time to be depressed. He could only keep his distance. By remaining far away, he wouldn’t be hurt.
He minded his own business while watching his mother empress pamper his younger brothers to the heavens. They even violated the rule of the vassal princes. When the brothers came of age and received ther vassal states, they still remained within the capital.
The previous emperor’s health had never been good. Once Emperor Xi could assume some responsibility, he gradually handed all the court affairs to him while focusing on his health. He rarely asked about things. The empress grew more domineering. Whenever Emperor Xi raised any objections, the empress would use filial piety and brotherly affection to suppress him.
After the previous emperor passed away, Emperor Xi almost failed to ascend the throne. It was only with the help of the loyal Zhenguo Duke that he was able to assume his rightful place.
Of course, this matter wasn’t finished yet. As long as the people involved weren’t dead, it was still a disaster waiting to happen.
The empress became the lofty empress dowager, and used her position to frequently restrict Emperor Xi. This sort of wear and tear would grind down any amount of feelings and filial piety. As someone raised to be the successor, how could Emperor Xi be an innocent person? Especially since his two brothers weren’t young and innocent anymore, and with the backing of the empress dowager, they networked with officials and nobles. This often made Emperor Xi feel stifled.
New grudges piled onto the old. There were naturally arguments.
On her deathbed, the empress dowager had still scolded Emperor Xi for being vicious, saying the royal family truly didn’t have any brotherly affection.
However, no one could clearly say who was in the right.
The chaos in court lasted for over half his reign. Only after the empress dowager passed away and the two vassal princes died unpleasant deaths did things calm down.
The Zhenguo Duke knew his majesty was reminded of his past and felt emotional!
“Your sincerity is admittedly good, but unfortunately people’s hearts change. You may be sure at this moment your brother will definitely treat you as well as before. However, with the passing of time and the influence of external factors, many things can easily change. Nothing changes faster than a person’s heart.”
Emperor Xi’s words were a little bleak. This sort of change made the audience tighten their hearts and hold their breaths.
Yan Yan didn’t seem to feel the change in atmosphere. She frowned and muttered for a while before answering: “This one doesn’t understand the things your majesty is talking about. But this one does know that passing the days requires gold and silver. If the day your majesty speaks of truly comes to pass, this one will at most take my belongings and move out to live by myself.”
“Wouldn’t you be upset because of this?”
Yan Yan pondered even longer this time. After a while, she finally raised her head and responded: “Since your majesty has said hearts may change, it clearly isn’t something that can be prevented. He can change if he wants and I can remain unchanged. We can cross that bridge when we get to it. As long as he treats me as his sister, I will treat him as my brother. If he truly changes, then we’ll just go our separate ways. All I seek is a clear conscience.”
This simple question and answer, back and forth, would be viewed as comedic material that was easily forgotten if the two were ordinary people. But because one was Emperor Xi, people couldn’t help but ponder deeply.
The words of higher ups have always been profound. A seemingly unremarkable phrase could contain a lot of implications. Those who could remain in politics all understood this. They all pondered Emperor Xi’s words over and over, falling just short of breaking them down and combing them over finely.
The crown prince, second prince and third prince were the same way. Could their royal father’s words be meant for them?
As for the fourth and fifth prince, one appeared to be focused on eating though secretly paying close attention and full of praise on the inside. The other maintained a wooden face without any expression. He sat there minding his own business like a monk.
Emperor Xi froze before clapping and laughing. “What a good “go our separate ways”! What a good “seeking clear conscience”! However, it’s still taking things for granted a little. The world is never that simple!”
He sighed and seemed to get emotional for a bit before returning back to the topic at hand. He seemed to truly be rather concerned for this strange young miss, and suggested: “I still feel it’s better if you marry someone. For girls, marriage is the proper path.”
Yan Yan had long since lost her patience. They had gone back and forth for so long. One moment he said she wouldn’t be able to get married, and was worried Ah Mo wouldn’t treat her well. The next moment he said it’s better to get married. Just what was this old fogey trying to say?
She pursed her lips and frowned as she looked at Emperor Xi.
Luo Huai Yuan who was on the side felt nervous. These signs were the precursors of the little consort flipping out.
However, it became clear he was overthinking things. No matter how Yan Yan was, she wouldn’t flip out at a monarch. It wasn’t like she was tired of living.
“Since majesty is so worried about this subject’s marriage, how about majesty helps discuss for this subject? With your majesty’s support, this subject’s marriage will surely be smooth sailing!”
This way her mom wouldn’t have to keep worrying about her not being able to get married.
Emperor Xi laughed again and said to the Zhenguo Duke: “Looks like your granddaughter isn’t just all brawn. She knows to use Us as backing.”
The Zhenguo Duke lowered his head and coughed lightly: “Fortunately your majesty is willing to overlook this old subject’s granddaughter’s insolence.”
How was he overlooking it? The smarter people could clearly see Emperor Xi appreciated this young miss a lot. Emperor Xi rarely showed his emotions, but today he was unusually pleased.
Emperor Xi smiled at the young miss below with interest: “Then speak. What kind of person do you wish to marry?”
Is this Emperor Xi’s brain ok?
Everyone probably had this thought but no one dared to express it. Since their superior expressed a lot of interest, they naturally had to follow suit.
Those elders who were qualified to speak in front of the emperor all said things like “The old duke’s granddaughter is truly special. If only this old official had such a cute granddaughter”, “she’s like an unpolished jade, pure and clean”, “this little doll is a good one”.
The crowd waited for Yan Yan’s response. She figured since things had gotten to this point, she might as well go all in. This matter was going to stir up waves regardless and her marriage had already been difficult. Now there was the matter of the second prince proposing in front of the crowd.
This matter was unsolvable to begin with. If Yan Yan wanted to refuse the second prince, she needed a suitable reason. She naturally couldn’t say anything bad about the emperor’s son, and could only devalue herself. Since she also knew why the second prince proposed to her, she wanted to make him avoid her in the future.
“Sound of body and mind. Taller than this subject by a little. Most importantly, needs to be able to tolerate this subject’s personality and treat me well with all his heart. He must prioritize me in all matters. Also, he cannot take in concubines, and no bad mother-in-law.”
The first few conditions were still reasonable, making people praise this girl for being unassuming. But the longer she spoke, the more inappropriate it became. No concubines? What man would prioritize a woman over himself? No bad mother-in-law?
These were truly the words of a child. It was ridiculous, and essentially slapped all those who complimented her across the face.
Everyone’s expressions became weird. This included Emperor Xi.
He was a little between laughter and tears. “It’s proper for a man to have several wives and concubines. Why the condition for no concubines? A woman should treat her husband as the heavens in accordance to the three principles and five virtues. Also, it’s reasonable for a woman to respect her mother-in-law. What do you mean by bad mother-in-law?”
As he spoke, Emperor Xi looked at the Zhenguo Duke in confusion. The Zhenguo Duke’s expression was slightly dark.
“The more women the more quarrels. If we’re all locked up in the rear residence, wouldn’t we be like cocks in the ring all the time? There would never be peace within the household.”
When these words were spoken, the only two other women on the scene suddenly had interesting expressions. The largest rear court under the heavens was the rear palace. Weren’t Empress Xiao and Senior Concubine Xu fighting like cocks in the ring all the time?
Emperor Xi smiled and gave the two of them a glance, making their faces turn white and green.
Yan Yan continued straightforwardly: “If he doesn’t treat me well, why would I marry him?
“There is a natural difference in status between a woman and her mother-in-law. There are those completely unreasonable people who like using filial piety to suppress others. Even when her mother-in-law is clearly in the wrong, the woman still has to swallow her grievances. Furthermore, the woman spends more time with her mother-in-law than her husband after marriage. If there’s an old yet undying person making mischief, how should she pass her days? This is the most sullen thing under the heavens. Regardless, this subject cannot endure these things.”
These were Yan Yan’s heartfelt words. There wasn’t a single lie.
Words only sounded good because people were never willing to speak the inappropriate ones hidden in their hearts. Whenever they did, they would embellish them. Yan Yan didn’t conceal her thoughts at all, truly shocking everyone.
It had to be said that Emperor Xi was liking Yan Yan more and more.
Initially it was only because her words matched his own intentions. For the sake of rejecting the second prince, she had belittled herself. As the son of heaven, Emperor Xi naturally couldn’t let the young miss suffer a loss. After conversing with her, he saw that she was frank, decisive and outspoken. Her thoughts were different from others but were rather reasonable upon consideration. Furthermore, some of her words had resonated with some of Emperor Xi’s gloominess hidden within his heart. He had a whole new level of respect for her.
At this moment, during their preposterous conversation, Yan Yan’s words were once again startling, and had once again resonated with Emperor Xi due to a certain matter.
That was the Mingshan1 Princess.
Emperor Xi had few offspring. There were only two princesses who were both born to low-ranked concubines. The Mingshan Princess was Emperor Xi’s oldest daughter.
She had received the most traditional upbringing within the palace. She was a proper lady through and through. She was benevolent, gentle, virtuous and well-mannered. Emperor Xi cherished her a lot.
This was prior to her marriage. After marriage, her days were no longer as smooth.
To put it plainly, it was because she was too soft, and too compliant with the virtues and morals of Confucianism. Although men liked such women, this only applied to their wives. Men were extremely unwilling to see their daughters like this.
The emperor’s son-in-law naturally didn’t dare to openly bully the royal family’s princess. There was nothing to pick out about his conduct. However, she was helpless in the face of an unkind mother-in-law. She never hit or scolded her, but merely used filial piety as a soft blade to deal with her.
Every time the Mingshan Princess returned to the palace, she was always unhappy. But she would always say she was fine when questioned.
After Emperor Xi investigated things carefully, he found out his daughter truly wasn’t living happily. Only now did he realize her upbringing wasn’t perfect.
A royal princess should be like this young miss in front of him: assertive, brash and willful. That would have been best! Why did the daughter of an emperor have to suffer her mother-in-law?
What was there to be afraid of? If the heavens collapsed, her royal father was there to prop it up!
Of course these words couldn’t be said openly. It wasn’t like Emperor Xi could tell his daughter to go bully her husband’s household. He had asked the empress as well as the princess’s mother concubine to give her some pointers. Unfortunately she couldn’t be taught at all.
This made Emperor Xi hate iron for not turning to steel!
“You speak with such righteous indignation that it must be from the heart. Old yet undying. This phrasing is rather unique, but is an extremely suitable description. Mingshan royal son-in-law, what say you?”
On this hunting trip, the Mingshan princess and her husband were naturally present. The royal son-in-law had also participated in the hunt today but wasn’t outstanding amongst the youths.
Hearing the emperor call upon him, his face turned red as he knelt and trembled.
“In response to your majesty, this subject, this subject….”
Emperor Xi looked fed up and didn’t spare him a glance. He waved his hand and had him return to his seat.
Family affairs were always hard to deal with. Emperor Xi hated how iron couldn’t turn to steal and worried helplessly on the side. His daughter became used to swallowing her grievances and started feeling like it wasn’t a big deal. Why would he be the villain that broke his daughter’s family apart?
But, he felt sullen!
Yan Yan’s words were startling and seemed preposterous, but he couldn’t deny that she was reasonable.
He couldn’t bear to break the wings of such a lively and willful young miss and have her fade into obscurity, becoming just another housewife.
Although Emperor Xi had spoken so much with Yan Yan, he had initially been planning on directly arranging her marriage to cut off certain people’s thoughts. His thoughts hadn’t changed, but there was now some sympathy and protectiveness as well.
Emperor Xi no longer questioned Yan Yan. He pointed at her and smiled, saying with a clear voice: “We like this young miss a lot. There are bound to be some suitable youth spresent. Are any of you willing to propose? This young miss has already laid out her conditions. Those who don’t meet them shouldn’t think about stepping up.”
He then said: “If it weren’t for the fact that my second royal son doesn’t catch this young miss’s eye, We really want to bring her in as a daughter-in-law!”
It was completely silent.
Who would dare follow up after that?
Not only had the second prince proposed first and gotten rejected by this startling young miss, but the old and young had gone back and forth, causing such a situation.
They couldn’t take concubines and also had to prioritize her. Especially her last point. Which one of them didn’t have a mom? If their mom treated her well, she was naturally a good mother-in-law. If there was the slightest bit of disagreement, she would become a bad mother-in-law. But good and bad was hard to judge. Could it be that filial piety would be thrown out the window for the sake of marrying this girl?
Furthermore, his majesty clearly expressed his intent to support her, and there was also the formidable Zhenugo Duke. To marry her would be bringing in another ancestor to worship in the estate. There was also the risk of offending Senior Concubine Xu’s faction.
No one dared to make a sound.
Emperor Xi pursed his lips tightly, seeming a little displeased.
The scene was extremely awkward.
The Zhenguo Duke was about to say something to smooth things over when Emperor Xi spoke again. “Ai, it seems you’re truly hard to marry off. Look how many officials and nobles there are who don’t dare to speak up. Could it be Our eye for people is extremely poor, and no one feels you are good?”
Yan Yan gave him a glance and could no longer be bothered to wonder what this weird emperor was thinking.
“This subject has been saying all along that there aren’t any good households willing to marry a girl like me. Without mentioning this subject’s temper, this subject has trained in martial arts from a young age. If there are any arguments between husband and wife in the future, I’ll use my fists if he uses his mouth. If he uses his fists, well, he probably cannot win against this little girl.”
She paused and slightly turned to the second prince who had an ugly expression. She cupped her hands and bowed: “Therefore, second prince it really isn’t you. It’s that this subject isn’t worthy of you. Hopefully second prince can understand.”
This counted as an explanation for her refusal. She had to consider the dignity of the second prince and the emperor while also refusing this marriage. Yan Yan had racked her brains.
Everyone’s dignity had been considered except for her own.
The Zhenguo Duke showed no expression but was actually already furious.
His heart ached for his own household’s child. A young miss who wasn’t yet of age had to tarnish her name because of people struggling up high. Now that things had gotten to this stage, quite a few present could tell that some people above wasn’t willing for her to get married, at least not to the second prince. Emperor Xi weaving in and out also clearly expressed he wanted this matter settled to cut off certain people’s thoughts.
After all, this Yan household’s miss was the Zhenguo Duke’s only granddaughter. He cherished her deeply. If they blocked off the second prince today, would the third prince pop out in the future? Or perhaps they would decide to make the sacrifices and marry her no matter what?
There was no need for sacrifice. The second prince took a deep breath and stood up.
Before he could speak, he saw someone raise his hand high and jump up, directly flipping over the table. The food and alcohol spilled everywhere.
It was the fourth prince again!
He appeared bedraggled, his expression timid and cowering. However, he still stammered out: “Royal, royal father, your son is willing to, to help with your worries!”
After he spoke, he seemed to muster up his courage. He walked in front of Yan Yan and said: “That, look, I’m taller than you, and am sound of body and mind. I’m just a little fat.”
When he mentioned the word fat, he looked a little ashamed and lowered his head. “Errr, I feel your personality is very good. That day when we were surrounded by wolves, you protected me the whole time. You are so skilled and can definitely protect me in the future. I will definitely prioritize you in everything. Furthermore, I live by myself. My mother concubine has to remain in the palace to serve royal father. When I come of age, we’ll head to my vassal state so there won’t be a mother-in-law bullying you from above. Also, I’m so fat so there definitely won’t be any women who like me. I naturally won’t take any concubines.”
He raised his head and bashfully looked at Yan Yan, his fair chubby face slightly red. “I will definitely treat you well. Are you ok with this?”
What was happening now?
Many people were already unable to accept things.
The second prince frowned and looked at the clownish fourth prince, scolding: “Fourth brother, stop messing around!”
He then cupped his hands and said to Yan Yan: “Miss Yan does not lose out to men in terms of straightforwardness, and is not constrained by conventions. This prince really admires this quality….”
Before he finished speaking, he was interrupted again. Luo Huai Yuan “quietly” muttered: “Second brother, how is your brother messing around? Your brother feels Miss Yan is very good. The books say that a drop of kindness should be repaid with a gushing spring. This debt of life must naturally be repaid over a lifetime. You won’t do. Your mom is so mighty, thus not meeting the requirements.”
The mighty Senior Concubine Xu’s face was black as the bottom of a pot.
Yan Yan’s mouth couldn’t help but curl up before straightening again.
The second prince suppressed his anger. “First of all, everyone knows my mother concubine is a gentle and kind person. Secondly, this prince will also move to his vassal state while mother concubine remains to serve royal father. My situation is similar to fourth brother. Furthermore….”
“You still won’t do! You’re too handsome. Handsome people will have women all over them.” He then said to Yan Yan. “I don’t look like a flower at all, so there naturally won’t be butterflies and bees coming for my nectar.”
Looking too handsome was a bad thing?! One had to be fat like you to be safe?
Empress Xiao who had been watching the show the entire time adjusted her phoenix hairpin and said to Emperor Xi with a smile: “Never noticed before that our Yuan’er is quite suitable for Miss Yan. One is soft while the other is hard. They complement each other perfectly. Our Yuan’er is a prince after all, and doesn’t disgrace the Yan household’s miss.”
Emperor Xi seemed to consider it and nodded. “What do you think?”
He was asking Yan Yan.
“This subject doesn’t dare pick between the two highnesses. Begging your majesty to make the decision.”
Emperor Xi looked helplessly at the second prince. “Jin’er you don’t have to step up to shoulder your father’s worries. Your temperament is also truly not as suited compared to your fourth brother. Your mother concubine is also waiting to hold a bunch of little grandsons. How can you not take concubines?”
“Then it’s decided. Tomorrow, We will grant this marriage. As for the date, that can be decided later.”
After speaking, Emperor Xi stood up and left.
The matter tonight had too many climaxes, making it a feast for the eyes.
Those who didn’t understand merely thought of it as a good show. Those who understood knew that this was a contest between the higher ups.
Empress Xiao left with Emperor Xi and Senior Concubine Xu naturally didn’t fall behind. Since the higher ups all left, those underneath naturally left one after the other.
Yan Ting walked over, his face gloomy, seemingly wanting to bring his daughter away.
The Zhenguo Duke came and gave him a glance before saying to Yan Yan: “Ah Yan, grandfather will take you back.”
Right as they were about to leave, there was a sudden shout.
“You fat pig. You actually dared fight over my second brother’s woman!”
Something flew over. Yan Yan was standing close to Luo Huai Yuan. Seeing that he couldn’t avoid it in time, she could only strike out with her whip.
Along with the breaking of porcelain, there was a splatter of fine alchohol.
A flurry of attacks were thrown. Yan Yan pulled Luo Huai Yuan behind her. The two people exchanged a few blows before the second prince yelled for them to stop.
“Third brother, what is the meaning of this? Your actions imply disagreement with royal father’s decision!”
“Second bro, I….”
The second prince held him back. He said apologetically to Luo Huai Yuan: “Fourth brother mustn’t blame him. You also know your third brother’s temper is too violent. It was all due to the heat of the moment.”
Yan Yan laughed angrily, “Is a bad temper an excuse to hit people for no reason? My temper isn’t good either, so can I go and give him a beating?”
The third prince provoked aggressively from behind the second prince. “Come if you are capable!”
Yan Yan smiled coldly. “How about we spar a little. The loser isn’t allowed to cry and tattle!”
“You little lass, don’t think just because royal father matched you with this fatty that I don’t dare beat you!”
“How about we give it a try and see who gets the beating?”
The third prince clenched his sore fists and gritted his teeth.
This little lass was truly strong. His skills focused on strength, but was actually unable to get the slightest advantage against her.
“Since his majesty matched me with him, he’s under my protection in the future. If you dare make trouble for him, be careful that I don’t beat you every time I see you.”
“Ah Yan, you cannot be rude!”
Yan Yan sneered and went to stand by the Zhenguo Duke’s side.
“Highnesses, please be magnanimous. This elder’s granddaughter was insolent!”
The second prince looked apologetic. “It’s all the third prince’s fault for being impetuous. Hopefully the Zhenguo Duke won’t blame him!”
After a few more polite words, the Zhenguo Duke took Yan Yan and left. The second prince looked at their receding figures for a long while before turning around.
“Fourth brother, take care of yourself.”
After speaking, he took the still glaring third prince and left.
Luo Huai Yuan didn’t show it on his face but was was clamoring on the inside. You think this daddy is afraid of you!?
But he was mostly overjoyed. Hahahahaha. He could finally marry the little consort!