Chapter 27: Hunting festival
The other noble ladies left with their daughters first. Liang-shi and Gu Yu Qi were also about to leave. When they left the warm pavilion, the servants of the princess’ residence invited them to another pavilion.
Liang-shi was a little uneasy, but Gu Yu Qi was calm. The princess was probably rewarding them.
Sure enough, there were already physicians from the princess’ residence waiting in the pavilion. Gu Yu Qi had only suffered skin trauma and did not need to be tended by the imperial physician.
The physician cleaned Gu Yu Qi’s wound carefully, applied medicine, then bandaged it. When everyone was settled, Princess Ping Hu walked into the pavilion with two maids.
Liang-shi and Gu Yu Qi stood up to curtsey and were held up by the princess. The princess looked carefully at Gu Yu Qi’s wound that had already been wrapped. She smiled, "This princess also knows that you two were wronged. It was just that there were many people present just then and if this princess was biased towards you, it may cause other problems."
Liang-shi hurriedly bowed and said, "Many thanks to Her Royal Highness."
"Actually, anyone with a discerning eye would have understood what was happening at a glance." The princess waved her hand and said pleasantly, "However, small matters are better than large matters, and no matter is better than small matters."
"The princess is right." Although Liang-shi said that, she felt very unhappy in her heart. It was easy for the princess to say that, but if it had been her own daughter being wronged today, it would likely not have ended so easily.
However, this Princess Ping Hu was a little pitiful. She was nearly 50 years old but had no children around her so she could not experience the feeling of a mother protecting her daughter.
"This princess has warmed up to you two, especially to this child, Gu Yu Qi." The princess knew that Liang-shi’s heart was still a little resentful, so she continued, "How about letting Yu Qi come to play at the princess’ residence in the future?" After she finished speaking, she gave the maid behind her a wink, and the maid presented a tray. "This is a gift from this princess." With her well-maintained hands, she unveiled the brocade covering the tray, took out a jade pendant, and hung the jade pendant on Gu Yu Qi’s waist with her own hands. "This is a pass to the princess’ residence. If you want to come to the princess’ residence, you can come whenever you want. Don’t underestimate this jade pendant. As long as you’re within the boundary of the capital, this jade pendant is very useful. Although this thing is not equal to an imperial gift, it is also extremely precious. You must keep it well and don’t lose it, otherwise this princess will not forgive you, " the princess smiled half-advisingly, half-threateningly.
Gu Yu Qi knew the worth of things and naturally knew what the jade pendant given by the princess represented. The princess’ position was not just nominal. The Princess Ping Hu in front of her was the only princess in the Qi Dynasty who had a fief within the capital. Her high status could be seen. As long as it was within the boundaries of the capital. This was the extent of the princess fief and the person who held this jade pendant could enter and leave any place at will, including the six government offices. Usually, the princess would not give out this kind of jade pendant so easily so Gu Yu Qi was a little confused. Why was she in the princess’ good graces when she has only met her once, and putting such an important thing in her hand?
Could it really be because she liked her?
In her previous life, Zhang Wan Yi had also gotten such a jade pendant from the princess. She could go in and out of the princess’ residence at will, as well as to the Han Lin Academy and the six government offices. Among the many noble ladies, she was simply outstanding. She herself used to be jealous of it back then. Unfortunately, the previous princess did not even bother looking at her, not to mention giving her a jade pendant.
Needless to say, the jade pendant to the princess’ residence was gifted by the princess. That meant the princess regarded her as one of her own people.
Gu Yu Qi felt a little dumbfounded for a moment. Although she had a premonition that the princess would reward them since she was seeing them alone, she had not expected such a big surprise. She suddenly felt her waist was a little heavy, as if the jade pendant was too weighty.
Gu Yu Qi wanted to take off what she had tried so hard to get in her last life. In this life, she got it without much effort, but she felt as if she had picked up a scalding hot potato and wanted to throw it away immediately.
What was this? This was an announcement that she would be involved with these imperial relatives and nobles in the future! She was afraid she would not be able to avoid it!
Just as Gu Yu Qi was about to return the jade pendant, she saw the princess waving her hand, "Alright, it’s getting late, and the wound on Yu Qi’s hand needs to recover. You’d better hurry back to the residence as soon as possible." After saying that, she left first and did not even give Gu Yu Qi a chance to decline.
Damn! What was this situation?!
Although Liang-shi had only come to the capital not long ago, she also knew the power of the princess’ residence. She was very happy that her daughter had received a jade pendant from the princess and did not consider anything else right now. She took Gu Yu Qi and left the pavilion.
In the far end of the corridor, the princess’ personal maid accompanying Princess Ping Hu gazed after the backs of the mother and daughter leaving. She asked inexplicably, "Why did Your Highness hand over such an important token to the young miss of the Marquis’ residence after only meeting once?"
Princess Ping Hu showed a meaningful smile, "Have you ever seen three princes fall in love with one girl at the same time?"
The maid pondered for a moment, then went ‘oh’.
Others may not have paid attention, but Princess Ping Hu who had been born and raised in the palace had keen eyes and ears. In the warm pavilion, Gu Yu Qi’s composure had been neither humble nor arrogant which was admirable. Zhang Wan Yi unexpectedly changed sides and instantly turned over a situation that had originally been one-sided. This kind of intelligence and bearing was not something ordinary noble girls could do. At first, she thought that Gu Yu Qi had pushed three people into the water but after thinking about it carefully, as smart as she was, she didn’t think so. What surprised her the most was that Yun Yi’s eyes had not looked away as soon as Gu Yu Qi had entered the warm pavilion. The crown prince had been cautious with his words and actions since he was a child, but he had also looked at her a few times. Lastly, there was Xiao Qi, the always calm Yun Ke. Although he had covered it up, with careful observation, it could be seen that his eyes had always been on Gu Yu Qi. Interesting! As an aunt, it was the first time that she had seen three princes pay attention to one girl at the same time. Worth every bit.
At such a young age, if Gu Yu Qi could really push the two Zhao sisters into the water, then she should not be underestimated and would at least have a little foundation in martial arts. It was likely that His Highness the Crown Prince would lose the bet. As for how much Gu Yu Qi was worth, they would have to wait until they went hunting.
"But isn’t Your Highness afraid that this young lady will show off with the jade pendant of the Princess’ residence?" The maid asked again.
"What this princess gives out can naturally be taken back. Oh right, have someone send Zhang Wan Yi a jade pendant as well. This princess will not go there personally." Princess Ping Hu said in a loud voice, "Oh, I’m so tired. Tell the imperial physician not to leave, have him take this princess’ pulse." After Princess Ping Hu finished speaking, she slowly turned and left.
Gu Yu Qi, who had returned to the Marquis’ residence, was sleepless all night. After dealing with the incident of falling into the water, Yun Ke’s voice calling Gu Cai Ren echoed in her ears like a nightmare. Also, what was with suddenly calling of that talented girl’s title? Gu Yu Qi tossed and turned on the bed like a fish being grilled on the fire. This guy had actually been reborn too! This thought grew in her mind like weeds and it kept her up at night. What to do? She could not dodge him most of the time even if she wanted to! With his temperament, he would never deliberately stay on the shore and wait for her. If he did that, it meant he would not let her go!
God damn it! Gu Yu Qi was so annoyed that she wanted to dismantle the bed. She thought about it all night and finally decided that since she could not avoid it, she would just refuse to admit it! Yun Ke was paying so much attention to her now probably because he was unreconciled. Perhaps with time, when he gets married and is busy trying to seize the throne, he would not use energy on her.
She could not stay in the capital for too long and had mostly given up on cultivating Du Xia to become her husband. She had to make good use of these years to cultivate her own foundation and when the time was ripe, she would immediately run away with her mother and their luggage on horseback.
It was just that Yun Ke was someone who would become the future emperor. It was likely she would not be able to stay in the lands governed by the Qi Dynasty, so she had to plan as soon as possible and settle down abroad!
Thinking of this, Gu Yu Qi was immediately revitalised. Regardless of the fact that it was midnight, she jumped up from the bed with bare feet and put on a pair of brocade cotton slippers. Putting on a dark red mink fur cloak with cranes, she ran towards Gu Huai Zhong’s study. Gu Huai Zhong’s military achievements was obvious, his study had the most complete map of China!
Yun Ke was also unable to sleep. He was only 15 years old now and had never married nor been crowned emperor. He was still living in Si Xian Zhai in the palace. He was sitting in the study and had been in a daze for several hours. On the table in front of him was a plain white and gold fan. He had written a verse on it personally, "sunrise basks the flowers in a fiery red", the ink long dried.
"Your Highness." A familiar voice came from the shadows and Yun Ke suddenly came back to his senses, "Just speak if you have something to say."
"The group of children arranged by Your Highness has trained for about a month. This servant has selected and cultivated the suitable ones. This is the list of names. Your Highness, please take a look at it." A figure flashed out of the shadows of the study, like a ghost. He knelt in front of Yun Ke and handed over the list of names.
Yun Ke opened the list, glanced at it, then picked up a pen, wanting to cross out a few names from the list. However, he found that the ink on his inkstone platform had already dried up.
It was only then did he realise he had unknowingly been in a daze for so long.
"Go and get rid of these people," he simply put down his pen and pointed out a few names on the list, speaking to the man in black. After speaking, he thought for a while then shook his head, "Forget it. Let’s do it this way. You should focus on cultivating these four people." He pointed to the four names again and showed the man in black, "Have you memorised them?"
"This servant has memorised them," the man in black nodded.
"Point them out to me?" Yun Ke said lightly. He had always been cautious when doing things. After seeing that the man in black accurately pointed out the four people he wanted, he returned the list to him, "Go ahead."
"Yes." The man in black took the list and disappeared again into the darkness without leaving a trace.
The people he first pointed to had later betrayed him. He had originally wanted to get rid of them now, but after thinking about it, it would be better to keep them. Since he already knew that they would betray him, why not take advantage of them?
On the other hand, the other four people he really wanted to focus on training, especially Du Xia.
Interestingly, that woman kept saying that Du Xia was hers! Funny, this future world was his! When was it her turn to make decisions?
Could it be that after reliving a lifetime, the woman’s goal became Du Xia?
Also, the future Marquis of Zhen Guo only had one wife his whole life, and he died peacefully. No matter how you looked at it, he was a good match.
Gu Yu Qi’s vision was not bad. She chose himself in the previous life and Du Xia in this life.
However… Did she think that after she played tricks on him in the last life, made him miss her all his life, and had now been reborn, he would easily spare her? If she did not carry the memories of her previous life, it would be fine and perhaps he would not put too much energy on her in this life. Yet although she refused to admit it, she obviously carried the memories of the previous life like him.
Thinking of the moment of stunned panic in Gu Yu Qi’s eyes when she heard him suddenly calling her "Gu Cai Ren" in the princess’ residence today, an inexplicable excitement surged in his heart.
It was good that she remembered him!
Gu Huai Zhong was going to the imperial court the next morning. Before dawn, he hurried from Wang Yue Ju to the study to get his things, only to find that his eldest daughter was sleeping happily on his spacious desk with a roll of China Chronicles. Naturally, he had heard about the matter at the princess’s residence. He originally wanted to see his daughter’s injury, but yesterday Liu-shi said that her chest tightness was pestering her, so he did not go to the Dan Xia courtyard. Now that he saw Gu Yu Qi in his study, his heart softened.
His daughter’s long hair was scattered behind her, arms folded under her head, and the wrist of her right hand and the palm of her left hand were wrapped with thick gauze. She was barefoot, one shoe was hanging on her foot, and the other was kicked to the door. Under her long eyelashes, there was a small shadow. The candle on the desk was still lit and the candle had burned to the end, showing that Gu Yu Qi had been reading books here for a long time.
Gu Huai Zhong hugged Gu Yu Qi and let the scroll of China Chronicles slip from her arms.
Gu Yu Qi had looked at the map and China Chronicles all night, and finally fell asleep. Even if it was thundering, she would not wake up. She just found a comfortable position in Gu Huai Zhong’s arms and continued to sleep.
Feeling his daughter’s arms wrapping around his neck, Gu Huai Zhong’s heart was even softer. His feelings for Liang Huai Yu were not clear even to him. When he was young, he really liked Liang Huai Yu, but later… It was best not to mention it. He was still afraid of Liang Huai Yu even now, so he felt alienated from this daughter who he had not seen in ten years.
However, coming into contact some time ago, he felt more and more that his eldest daughter might really be his pride. Things like bloodlines were really mysterious.
Especially what she did in the princess’ residence yesterday. Others talked about her with great fanfare so as a father, he was proud of her. It seemed like the direction of his training had been really correct. Gu Yu Qi was even in Princess Ping Hu’s good graces. Maybe this daughter would really have a promising future.
He did not send Gu Yu Qi back to Dan Xia courtyard, but to Wan Xin Zhai, because he suddenly wanted to see his wife, Liang Huai Yu.
It was still dark, and the door of Wan Xin Zhai was still tightly closed. Gu Huai Zhong knocked on the door a few times but for fear of waking Gu Yu Qi, he did not dare to knock too hard. A sleepy-eyed maid came to open the door when she heard the knock. However, when she found out that it was the Marquis standing outside the door, she was woken up in fright and quickly let the Marquis in.
Liang Huai Yu was also asleep. In her sleep, she heard that Marquis was here. She opened the door reluctantly but found that her daughter was sleeping soundly in Gu Huai Zhong’s arms.
Gu Huai Zhong put his daughter on Liang Huai Yu’s bed and explained things. Then he looked at his wife who had just woken up from her sleep.
Right now, she had no makeup on and was only wearing a white robe. Her long hair naturally draped over her shoulders and she actually looked younger than when he saw her normally. The younger her reminded him of how she looked when he first met her in the past.
Seeing Gu Huai Zhong staring at her, Liang Huai Yu could not help frowning slightly, "You’ve brought Ah Nan here, does the Marquis have any other matters here?" She pulled up the quilt to cover her daughter. When she touched her daughter’s feet, it was actually cold. She hurriedly pulled out the quilt from the head of her bed and wrapped her daughter’s feet in it.
Gu Huai Zhong saw that Liang Huai Yu spared no thought for him and her words were meant to drive him away. His heart was cold. "After I come back from the imperial court, I’ll come see you again," he could only say in a low voice.
"No need to bother the Marquis." Liang Huai Yu smiled coldly. She also climbed into the bed, taking the sleeping Gu Yu Qi into her arms, "When our daughter came back with an injury, did the Marquis take a look?" After she finished speaking, she waved her hand and dropped the veil which blocked Gu Huai Zhong’s sight.
Gu Huaizhong was stunned for a while before he let out a long sigh and walked away slowly.
The two of them seemed to have been separated from him by something long ago. Just like the veil, they had their own world and they stood there, unable to be seen or touched.
The pinch marks on Gu Yu Qi’s right hand healed in a few days, but the injury on her left hand was more serious. Afraid that a scar would form, Liang-shi found all kinds of medicines and applied them to her and also applied pearl powder all day. Gu Yu Qi was recovering from an injury so Liang Huai Yu did not want her jumping around practising martial arts. However, seeing her daughter holding back for two days, scratching her ears and cheeks restlessly, she was relieved. Speaking of which, she was also a little scared. If her daughter had not practised martial arts to defend herself, Gu Yu Qi would likely have fallen into the water in the other courtyard that day.
Those three people were not kind like Gu Yu Qi. They pushed her into the water and tried to find a way to frame her.
Thinking of this, Liang-shi was so angry that she wanted to roll up her sleeves and go to the Zhao family’s house to drag out the three mothers and daughters and beat them violently to relieve her anger.
So when Gu Yu Qi said that she wanted to practise martial arts, she taught more attentively than before.
After another month, Gu Yu Qi’s hand was completely healed, leaving only a pale white trace.
Five days before the Winter Hunting Festival, Gu Huai Zhong brought an invitation from the princess’ residence and invited Gu Yu Qi to go hunting at East Mountain.
In the Qi Dynasty, the imperial family hunted twice a year. One was in autumn to celebrate the harvest, and the other was in winter because after the Winter Hunting Festival, heavy snow would cover the mountain and it would be New Year in two months. The winter hunt was the last hunt of the year and it was highly valued by the imperial family. At first, the winter hunt was only attended by princes and ministers, but after a long time, it gradually became an imperial ceremony where imperial concubines, princesses, and the families of ministers could participate.
The ancestors of the imperial family in the Qi Dynasty conquered the world on horseback, and the Winter Hunting Festival of the imperial family was also very lively. There were various hunting activities during the day and at night, there were bonfire songs, dances, and acrobatics to liven up things. The imperial hunting ground on the East Mountain was open twice a year. The greatest was the Winter Hunting Festival, which was approaching the New Year.
Seeing that Liang-shi and Gu Yu Qi both received invitations from the princess’ residence, Liu-shi finally could not sit still.
She had already endured it for a long time. These days, Gu Yu Qi’s and Liang-shi’s lives were going too smoothly and they did not care about her at all. What made her even more anxious was that Gu Huai Zhong seemed to be getting closer and closer to Gu Yu Qi and her mother. Even in Wang Yue Ju, he mentioned the mother and daughter more and more.
At first, Liu-shi was able to endure it but one day she finally could not bear it anymore and she had a big fight with Gu Huai Zhong. As a result, instead of coaxing her as before, Gu Huai Zhong moved to the study in a fit of rage and slept there for three days in a row. It was her who caved, bringing tea and apologising, before Gu Huai Zhong returned to Wang Yue Ju.
She pestered Gu Huai Zhong to take her there, but Gu Huai Zhong was very embarrassed. Only wives were brought on this hunting festival and there were no concubines.
Seeing that she definitely would not be able to go, Liu-shi retreated and begged Gu Huai Zhong to bring Gu Si Yang and Gu Si Yu. Gu Huai Zhong did not want to take them either, but he could not stand Li-shi’s unceasing badgering, so he bit the bullet and agreed. It was taboo to bring a concubine, but it was still passable to bring the children of the concubine.
With Gu Huai Zhong’s consent, Liu-shi happily went to make clothes for her children.
She need not worry about Gu Yu Qi, but she could let her son and daughter be looked down upon when they were taken out. Gu Si Yang and Gu Si Yu were both nine-years-old, and they would be ten-years-old after the New Year. Seeing that in a few years, it will be time to discuss marriage, it was necessary to arrange a good future for them.
Compared with the cheerfulness on Liu-shi’s side, Gu Yu Qi felt that there was a dark cloud hanging over her head all day.
Winter hunting! In her previous life, she had attended several times and it was indeed a lively event. If it had been the previous her, she would have been elated. Yet now, as long as she thought about having to face that guy Yun Ke in the winter hunting, she could not smile at all.
Not only Yun Ke, but Zhang Wan Yi would also go. So embarrassing!
After the incident in the other courtyard, Zhang Wan Yi had sent a letter asking after Gu Yu Qi. Gu Yu Qi knew that on the one hand, she was showing affection and on the other hand, she was testing her. So she replied with a warm letter but also said that she had contracted a cold and it would be inconvenient to meet each other.
However, being able to avoid it once did not mean she could avoid it another time. What needed to come would come eventually.
Three days later, Gu Yu Qi and her mother were escorted by Gu Huai Zhong, the Ding Yuan Marquis, in the large carriage of the Marquis’ residence. They went to the East Mountain Hunting Field in a grand manner, and there was a carriage behind their carriage, with Gu Si Yang and Gu Si Yu sitting in it.
The East Mountain Hunting Ground was two days away from the capital and the carriages from each residence left two or three days in advance. Hence, before the Winter Hunting Festival, the main roads outside the capital became extremely lively. Every residence had a horse-drawn carriage for travel and it was inevitable they would travel together all the way. Even the resting stations and inns on the road were full of nobles and their families from the capital, greeting each other and travelling together.
The Winter Hunting Festival had lasted for a hundred years, and the common folk along the way were long used to it. Some of the clever ones would clean out their rooms near the main road and rent it out. Before and after the Winter Hunting Festival, it was easy to make money from these ministers. Everyone was used to comparing within the capital so naturally when they went out, they were not willing to be left behind and so they brought a lot of benefits to the people and inns along the way.