Chapter 6: The Empress’ Tears
Woodlands [after the rain and snow] unveils a bright blue sky, evening comes and the city grows increasingly cold.
In a blink of an eye it is already the heaven’s recording of the second year. This year a downpour of rarely seen heavy snow falls upon the Capital, displaying a rare good omen, perfectly responding to the phrase “a timely snow promises a good harvest”, the unfortunate thing is, at the beginning of the new year, a sensational matter has occurred in the Capital. When the Emperor was praying for good fortune this coming year, within the Hu Guotemple, a monk suddenly says, the current Consort Ying is “the country’s source of misfortune”, in a moment of rage, the Emperor beheaded the monk, only after did he find out, this monk is extremely famous amongst the common folks, Master Zhi Kong who had been nicknamed “Buddha Monk”, within a moment, the Capital went through a constant change of events, everyone was constantly chatting about the matter with one another.
This matter seems to not have affected the Prime Minister Estate in the slightest bit, due to the fact that there has recently been the additional arrival of a madam to this estate, the place appears to be exceptionally lively. The heavy snowfall covers the ground, blanketing it in white, the Prime Minister Estate is decorated with lanterns and silk streamers, such liveliness is extraordinary. Inside the estate’s courtyard, an old man dressed as a housekeeper, steadily strides forth, marching over towards the room in the west wing, to see the doors closed is rather unexpected, he steps forward, rhythmically, he calls out: “Gentleman Guan, Gentleman Guan……”
The doors open in response to the noise, a young gentleman walks out of the room, in a dark blue silk robe, with long brows and bright eyes, looking refined and handsome, carrying a friendly smile, he exudes an unconceivable sense of refreshing luxury, even the housekeeper who had read countless people before was full of endlessly unspoken praises for him, greeting him respectfully with a bow, “Gentleman Guan, plum wine is being boiled in the front courtyard today, our Lord Prime Minister and Madam has invited you to the front courtyard.”
Guan Xiu Wen has been in the Prime Minister Estate for two whole months already, thinking back to two months ago, it really is just a like a dream, gently nodding towards the housekeeper, he says: “May I trouble Housekeeper then.” Casually closing the door, he follows the housekeeper towards the front courtyard.
Encountering the maidservants and nannies along the way, there was no one who did not respectfully greet him, and Guan Xiu Wen would always respond with a smile, the housekeeper was filled with sincere appreciation, the entire estate knows, Madam had brought back a gentleman in his twenties from the palace, no one knows what background he had come from, Madam says he is a diamond in the rough, not long after, even Lord Prime Minister praised his talents, accepting him as his student, and even predicted that, in the spring of this year, he will pass the exams with flying colours. Having been a housekeeper for many years, Lord Prime Minister’s words have never been wrong.
This man will be the future First Ranked Scholar, he raises his eyes to look at the person beside him, what’s even more rare is, he is never arrogant, always friendly and respectful towards others.
The two people had just walked up to the entrance of the front courtyard, when they see Lou Che walk towards them, both of them stop in their tracks, Lou Che draws in, his face carrying a smile like that of the spring breeze.
Guan Xiu Wen had already bent down to bow respectfully, his mouth calling out: “Teacher.” Seeing Lou Che’s slightly hasty look, he could already guess that he must be going into the palace, inside, he could not help but let rise a feeling of repellence, using the action of bowing his head, he squints his eyes ever so slightly, camouflaging the trace of disgust revealed in his eyes.
Lou Che had just received an urgent report from the palace, the Emperor has summoned him into the palace, burning with impatience, looks like it is because of this “country’s misfortune” matter. His heart is already tired of this matter, but because of his imperial monarch’s orders, as the subject, how is he to defy it?
Looking at the youth in front of him, he is always reminded of his past self, Guan Xiu Wen’s talent is indeed preserved for someone who’s capable of being the First Ranked Scholar, but for some unknown reason, he just cannot seem to be able to warm up to this refreshing young man, despite that they are already mentor and student in name, he just feels as though there is always a wall between the two of them, inside, he laughs at himself for thinking too much, this youth may later become an effective helper of his in future, Lou Che nods at Guan Xiu Wen, and then continues to rush out nonstop.
Only after he had long left did the housekeeper raise his head, he looks towards the young man standing beside him, and was immediately taken aback, but looking closely, it is still that smiling fresh youth……just now his eyes must have blurred, how could he have possibly seen this youth with such an expressionless face?
Along with the housekeeper, he walks into the front courtyard, the courtyard here in the east wing, it is different to the west wing’s courtyard with the lotus pond, here there is a plum garden, as he walks into the plum garden, he could only sigh at the great creations of heaven and earth.
Within this white world, the striking dots of red catches your full attention, on the snow, on the branches, in the maids’ hands, little dots of plum blossoms, on top of the branches there is often an accumulation of snow, forming a background against the little dots of plum blossoms, it really is a penetrating red within the white, an unconceivable beauty, between heaven and earth, this combination of white and red creates a scene of poetic and pictorial splendour. The plum blossom also carries a fresh scent, coupled with the floating aroma of wine, two fragrances mixing together, deeply affected, he approaches the smell, soaking it into his heart.
The maidservants shuttles between the plum blossom trees, their hands carrying clippers, merry laughter sounding here and there, Guan Xiu Wen had almost thought he had wandered into fairyland.
A smile unconsciously surfaces on his face, he walks towards the middle of the plum forest, and his breathing suddenly stifles.
A snow white robe with red lapels, black hair like silk, eyebrows like distant hills, eyes like the stars, the whiteness of her skin wins over the snow, her appearance wins over that of the plum blossoms, she lightly smiles, looking exceedingly fascinating and charming.
He cannot help but to stop, attentively watching this scene, until he sees that woman smiling to him as she waves, only then, did he wake up from his trance, pulling away his eyes, he slowly walks up, stopping in front of the table, greeting her respectfully: “Madam.”
Upon looking at the youth, Gui Wan was a little surprised, this youth indeed suits wearing such refined style of outfit, just like a young nobleman, she blandly laughs in response to him: “Xiu Wen, sit down.” Although this young man is not related to her biologically in any way, she just feels as though he has a very familial vibe to him.
Guan Xiu Wen sits down, a cup of plum blossom wine had already been poured for him by the maid, he reaches out to take hold of the cup of wine, giving it a smell, it really has a light fragrance, a cup that touches people’s hearts. Seeing such an enchanted expression on his face, Gui Wan lets out a little laugh, and quips: “How is it, lives up to the trip here right?”
Responding with a smile, Guan Xiu Wen does not speak, he lightly takes a sip of the wine, the alcohol taste is clean but not weak, the fragrant flavour lasts a long time in the mouth, unable to hold back, he states: “Truly of the best quality.”
“That is of course,” Gui Wan picks up the just brewed wine, taking a small drink from it, she explains, “This is gifted by her highness the Empress, originally I had thought the wine taste was too weak, didn’t think that when brewed with plum blossoms, it would actually become such a beautiful wine.” Just when the words were spoken, her smile slightly fades, thinking of the Empress deep within the palace, Gui Wan would feel a little regretful for her. Three days after the banquet at the palace, the Empress had invited her into the palace, originally she had thought that the Empress would deliberately make things difficult for her, who would have thought that the Empress is actually gentle and graceful, courteous and considerate, her heart could not help but to like this Empress a little, one thing lead to another, and the two became friends.
That Empress that has tranquillity amongst her beauty, is just like a plum blossom, an adornment of little dots of red, resistant to looking, resistant to smelling, resistant to appreciations, unfortunately, within the Emperor’s eyes, there is only that alluring peony……
Seeing Gui Wan reveal a look of loneliness in her eyes, Guan Xiu Wen also frowns, within that moment, the world around them went silent, only the faint laughter in the forest can be heard, a light fragrance lingering in the nose.
Gui Wan is free by nature, noticing the atmosphere turn cold, she lets out a relaxing laugh, “Lord First Ranked Scholar, why are you not speaking? Is the plum wine too fragrant, causing your soul to leave your body?” Ever since Lou Che had said he would definitely pass the exam, every time Gui Wan wants to tease him, she would address him as Lord First Ranked Scholar.
Hearing this addressment, Guan Xiu Wen foolishly reveals an expression of embarrassment, when he sees that Gui Wan is staring at him, he reveals a playful charm, his heart suddenly throbbing as he answers: “That……”
Seeing his shyness that is revealed every time he hears this First Ranked Scholar addressment, Gui Wan once again bursts out laughing……the air within the plum garden is filled with festivity, a scene of joy and harmony.
Right when they were laughing merrily, the housekeeper hurriedly runs in from the outside, seeing panic in his expression, Gui Wan recomposes a straight face, watching as he runs up.
The housekeeper bows, his hands holding out a yellow post as he breathlessly says: “The Empress has an urgent call.”
Frowning, she accepts the post, the words have been scribbled on, seems like it was been written hastily, Gui Wan was secretly surprised, the Empress has always been cautious, her writing is upright and beautiful, just like her character, but this scribbly writing, something couldn’t have happened right?
Suddenly standing up, she immediately orders: “Prepare the carriage, to the back palace.” Turning back to give the youth a look of apology, she turns away and walks out.
The youth holds up the cup of wine, worriedly watching her back view, walking further and further away……
This Empress’ palace, she has come by numerous time this past two months, and never has she encountered a situation of being stopped at the doors, today, the Empress’ palace seems to be guarded more heavily than usual, no matter how much the Empress’ personal maid tries to explain, the guards were not willing to easily allow her in.
Gui Wan was secretly angry inside, taking out the golden pendant by her side, the golden pendant sparkles under the light, on it was only the one word -- “Lou”. The guards sees this golden pendant, and their arrogance suddenly disappears completely, withdrawing to the side, really cannot believe that Lou Che’s pendant is actually much more feasible than the Empress’ orders, Gui Wan was temporarily speechless, this is original an absurd world, only those who can truly grasp hold of power can be the powerful ones.
When she was passing through the front halls, her heart grew increasingly restless, Gui Wan follows the palace maid into the hall.
The Empress was leaning on the royal settee, appearing to be deep in her thoughts, not even noticing that Gui Wan had arrived, the palace maid goes up front to report, and the Empress opens her phoenix eyes, her eyes faintly carrying tears, seeing Gui Wan, she reveals a smile of relief, “Gui Wan.” What kind of emotions this calling out held, Gui Wan could not tell, but just by hearing this call out, Gui Wan’s heart quivers.
“Your highness,” Gui Wan slowly approaches, walking up to the front of the royal settee, her voice carries a relaxing tone as she says. “Are you not feeling well?”
Lightly shaking her head a few times, the Empress sits up straight, facing Gui Wan, she asks: “Gui Wan, what shall I do?” Her words carrying helplessness, haste, panic.
Seeing that the Empress’ hand was slightly trembling, Gui Wan reaches out to take hold it, saying: “Do not rush, what exactly happened?”
Bursts of energy emits from her palm, and the Empress finally reveals a smile, “Gui Wan, do you know of the Hu Guo Temple matter?” Within her voice, there was a slight leaking of the Empress’ unease.
“Is it the matter regarding the his majesty killing Zhi Kong?”
“His majesty wants to thoroughly investigate the matter, my father and I have been included in this.” As the Empress speaks, her facial expression becomes more and more miserable, “The Emperor has changed, he’s changed……he doesn’t even listen to my explanation, it’s not me, it wasn’t me who did it……” The Empress who was always so graceful, breaks down in tears, her bearings completely lost.
Gui Wan was startled, this is politics, with not the slightest trace of friendship and loyalty, she calmly gives the Empress’ hand a squeeze, gently asking: “This matter wasn’t done by you and Elder Statesman?”
The Empress was suddenly startled, crying as she answers: “Even you don’t believe me? It wasn’t me, nor was it my father, we did not do it. How could……how could even you not believe me?”
Hastening to indicate, Gui Wan speaks in a composed manner: “It’s not that, I only want to figure out the situation, only then can I assess it, don’t panic.” Hearing Gui Wan’s gentle voice, the Empress’ worked up emotions slowly calms down, taking note of her own loss of composure, she sheepishly smiles at Gui Wan.
Finally seeing the Empress regain her usual grace and calm, Gui Wan lets out a sigh of relieve, the Empress stands up, taking a few steps within the room, it seems as though she has thought of something, thinking over the matter from beginning to end again. Only after the monk had been killed by the Emperor, did they know it was Master Zhi Kong, the Emperor was furious, sending people out to investigate, in the end, everything was done to go against the Empress. This morning the Emperor for some unknown reason, had sent for people to surround the Empress’ palace, and only then did the Empress realise that the situation was of utmost severity.
The Empress stands in front of the window, looking out at the boundless white snow, she speaks sorrowfully: “When he was the Crown Prince, he vowed to always believe me, the us back then, just how happy we were ah.” Her face displays a trace of smile in recollection, the Empress mutters, “He’s changed, we promised that together we will protect this beautiful country……”
Gui Wan did not know what to say to comfort her, throughout this entire country right now, who doesn’t know that the one that the Emperor loves is Consort Ying? She opens her mouth to say something, only to find herself stumped.
The Empress turns around, her face still glistening with the clear streams of tears, she looks straight at Gui Wan, “Gui Wan, do you know how it feels to want to protect something?”
Not waiting for Gui Wan’s answer, the Empress continues to speak: “I want to protect him, even if the one he wants to protect is Consort Ying, I still want to protect him, you must find it laughable, I actually want to protect the monarch of the country, I want to protect this land, this is his and my world, I need to protect it.” The resolution in her eyes gradually grows firm, revealing a determination under the light.
Faintly feeling something is wrong, Gui Wan stands up, walking up to the Empress’ side with quick steps, she lightly asks: “Your highness, what are you planning to do?”
“I need to kill Consort Ying,” The Empress raises a laugh, carrying rupture and sadness, “I’m not doing this because of jealousy. I will accompany Consort Ying in this deception, I just want the Emperor to wake up, and take good care of the country.”
Hearing this, Gui Wan was too shocked to say a word, suddenly thinking of something, she lightly cries out: “No, you are no match for them.”
The Empress turns to her side and eyes Gui Wan, gaining a thorough look, this one look sees through Gui Wan’s panic, the Empress coldly smiles, “You’re speaking about Minister Lou?”
Gui Wan was completely stunned, not knowing how she should answer, the Empress further asks: “You think I didn’t know? From the very first day I saw Consort Ying, I understood, she doesn’t love the Emperor. I am a woman, I have this intuition, I can no longer continue to tolerate this, I need to protect the Emperor.”
Gui Wan knits her brows together, she wants to persuade her, but does not know how to go about persuading her, the Empress holds great resolution, with no room for any negotiation.
Is this how it is when a woman goes crazy? Even the mother of the country is of no exception.
Noticing the disagreement in Gui Wan’s eyes, the Empress stares at her, carrying a pleading look, she kneels down before Gui Wan. Gui Wan who just had the living daylights scared out of her, was just about to help her up, when the Empress says: “Gui Wan, yours and my husband have fallen for the same woman, understand my feelings, please? I beg of you to help me with one thing, my son is only two years old, I beg you, if anything happens to me, please become his backing force, my father, is advancing in years, please protect him, I beg you……I beg you……” The Empress has actually heavily knocked her head on the floor three times.
Gui Wan froze on the spot, her face struck with heat, she reaches up to touch her face, it was tears, tears had unknowingly rolled down her face, she helps the Empress up, gently asking her: “Is it worth it?”
The Empress smiles, she does not answer, such smile so desolate, carrying such beautiful despair, making it unbearable for one to refuse her request.
Gui Wan walks out from the Empress’ place, a multitude of feelings surging up, feeling as though her reasoning is no longer coming from her head, that smile of the Empress lingers in her heart. Having walked out if the Empress’ palace, she was surprised to see the Emperor waiting outside, the Emperor’s brows were furrowed, pacing back and forth indecisively.
Stopping in her tracks, she takes a few steps back, Gui Wan leans against the entrance of the hall, carefully observing the Emperor’s movements, the Emperor appears to be in a difficult position, dark clouds overcasting his face of handsome elegance.
The Emperor was acting heavily indecisive outside the hall, watching as he constantly paces back and forth, Gui Wan was also feeling a little tense, wishing that he would at least walk into the big hall, and comfort the Empress for once, then the Empress would not be in such despair.
Within this peaceful courtyard of the palace, the time passes by little by little, in the end the Emperor did not set foot into the Empress’ palace. Gui Wan grew anxious whilst waiting, thinking that the Empress would also be waiting within that large, lonely hall, flames of agitation grew in her heart.
The Emperor finally sets foot on the steps, making his way up, Gui Wan’s heart was put at ease, perhaps a tragic fate has been saved, just when she was secretly rejoicing, an eunuch hurriedly runs in, calling out: “Your majesty, your majesty……” The Emperor looks back, his footsteps coming to a halt, the eunuch comes close, whispering into the ear of the Emperor, the Emperor’s face immediately shows a look of shock, with a turn of his body, he walks down the steps, leaving without even looking back.
Seeing him walk away so quickly, Gui Wan was extremely disappointed, walking out of the hall, she slowly walks down the steps, extending her hand to beckon the nearby guard, coldly asking: “Where is the Emperor off to in such a hurry?”
The guard froze, unable to understand, why the Prime Minister Madam would ask this, but he respectfully answers nonetheless: “It is said that something came up at Lady Consort Ying’s side, that’s why……” Gui Wan cuts off his words with a wave of her hand, her face revealing a look of resentment.
Looking back, the Empress’ chambers so desolate and cold, other than the ever so silent guards, there are no other people here, the usual scene of visitors swarming the place seems fake, lightly letting out a sigh, Gui Wan walks down the large hall.
This imperial palace has given her too much lamentations, the deep wistfulness of the women that are confined in this place, through the layers and layers of golden tiles and red walls, they fill up the imperial palace, she attentively listens, the wind scraping past her ears also sounds like that of a resentful sigh as well as the struggles that sinks in before despair.
Sitting in the horse carriage, she speeds out of the palace, with a slight lift of the curtains, a blast of wind blows into the carriage, and suddenly there is rustling of chilliness within, feeling the cold, Gui Wan is blew over with a philosophical feeling, pondering for a bit, she orders the coachman: “Don’t cause a commotion, make a turn, to the market.”
The horse carriage turns back, turning towards the market.
At this time when the lanterns had just been lit up, there were not many people out on the streets, the carriage slows as it pulls into the market street, lifting a corner of the curtains, she takes a look at the situation outside, ordinary people, mundane faces, unpretentious smiles, her thoughts takes off spinning along with the carriage’s wheels, could this be what the Empress wants to protect? Evoking a touch of a knowing smile, she has now slightly come to understand the Empress’ obsession.
The Empress’ words once again echoes in her head: I want to protect this picturesque land……
The horse carriage suddenly stops, completely unprepared, Gui Wan’s body bolts forward, her hand pressed against the wall of the carriage, a grave voice asking: “What happened?”
The coachman’s voice travels through the curtains: “Madam, there’s people fighting ahead, so the road has been blocked, we can’t get past.” With sincere anxiety and sincere fear, his voice is filled with frustration.
To cause trouble in the Capital’s downtown area, who could be so bold? Extending a hand to raise the curtain, she looks outside, the pedestrians on the road have all stopped to watch, huddling around into a circle right in the middle of the road, completely blocking the pathway, seeing such situation, Gui Wan could also do nothing, only ordering the coachman: “Pull over to the side, we’ll set off again once they disperse.”
Half lying inside the carriage all alone, her eyes closed, Gui Wan was drowsily falling into a light sleep, under such haziness, the mentioning of Consort Ying’s name once again travels into her ear, her brows knits together, having already left the imperial palace, how could she still be hearing this name? She slowly opens her eye, the ruckus outside the carriage gets louder and louder, to the point that even the heavy carriage curtains were unable to block it off, Consort Ying’s name can be faintly heard from the quarrel, Gui Wan was covertly intrigued.
Once again lifting the curtains, she asks: “Who are the people arguing ahead?”
The coachman respectfully stands by the side, hearing this questions, he immediately answers: “It seems that conflict has arose between people of the Shu Zhang Estate and Yao Estate whilst on the road, thus causing a scene here.”
Is there not enough dispute within the palace that even their relatives have to battle it out outside? Gui Wan coldly watches ahead, that type of heavy yet powerless feeling of disgust once again resurfaces in her heart.
“Madam,” The coachman was a little worried, to see Gui Wan with such unsettled expression, he has never seen the Madam be like this before, “Would you like to ask them to move aside for us to pass through first?”
“No need,” A trace of blurred smile floats to the surface of her face, Gui Wan sadly says, “I want to watch on.”
The coachman says nothing and withdraws to the side, the more he thinks about it, the more unfitting it seems to be, and so he runs up to a store by the side, getting hold of an errand boy, stuffing some silver to him, he whispers a few words into his ear, the errand boy hurriedly nods his head before running off in flying style, heading towards the direction the carriage had come from.
The argument does not seem to have the slightest means of stopping, there’s even the tendency to continue intensifying, with neither sides willing to give way, watching on, she was just about to make a move, when hurried hooves suddenly sounds, Gui Wan turns her head to look behind, a small squad of imperial guards speedily closes in on their horses, the leader of them is actually -- Lou Che.
A complexion as clear as jade, gentle warmth like that of the spring breeze, containing an unexposed prestige, with an indescribable appearance of magnificence that sweeps people of their feet, the arguing retainers of the two Estates, unanimously opens up a path.
Gui Wan watches, her husband indeed has some clever tricks, half merciful, half intimidating, simultaneously scaring off the two households’ retainers. With no drama to watch, the crowd quickly disperses, the people flowing out like endless streams, and instantaneously half the crowd has already disappeared.
Riding up close to the carriage, Lou Che’s eyes carries a hint of anxiety, gently asking: “What’s wrong? Why are you not returning home?”
Gui Wan raises her head, revealing a smile, “I wanted to get some fresh air, what made Lord Husband come over?”
Seeing the unsettlement carried under her smile, a look of absentmindedness, Lou Che’s deeply laments inside, he dismounts from the horse, walking up to the carriage, he sees strands of her pitch black hair lift up in the wind, interlacing with the ribbon, Lou Che reaches out to smooth over her loose hair, and conveniently pulls down the curtains, he turns his head back and orders: “Back to the estate.” Having said that, he also jumps into the horse carriage.
Cold air envelopes the inside of the carriage, Gui Wan’s expression shows fatigue, she closes her eyes, not knowing why, she does not want to face Lou Che right now.
Lou Che watches over Gui Wan attentively, seeing her fatigue, his heart was pained, this girl he has greatly cared for, doted on, and treasured, without realising, he has become accustomed to particularly like seeing her carefree smile, just now, to suddenly receive the news of her being blocked on the road, he immediately rushed here, seeing her faintly carry such troubled look, he could not help but to reach out to stroke her eyebrow, only to feel Gui Wan quiver, her head gently moving aside, and his fingers is met with nothing but air, Lou Che retrieves his hand, somewhat startled.
“Gui Wan,” Lou Che’s gentle voice lightly calls out, “What happened?”
Still keeping her eyes close, Gui Wan’s voice was clear and sweet: “Lord Husband, nothing’s happened at all, I just feel a little tired today.”
Suddenly feeling this addressment of “Lord Husband” was full of half-heartedness and sarcasm, Lou Che’s heart froze, he has not realised what he has done, to have already caused Gui Wan to hold something against him, Gui Wan was startled, opening her eyes wide, she looks into Lou Che’s eyes in shock.
Lou Che wraps his hands around Gui Wan’s rather icy ones, dumbly smiling, “The weather is so cold, yet you still keep the curtains open, is it not fine to just have them make way?” His voice carrying a thin layer of reproach.
Withdrawing her own hand, Gui Wan coldly laughs, “One side is from the Empress’ maiden family, the other side is from Consort Ying’s relatives, how could I dare to……or how could I be able to?”
Lou Che does not find her uncongenial, brushing back Gui Wan’s hair, his voice still ever so gentle: “Why could you not be able to?” Finding that Gui Wan was wearing a palace outfit, his eyebrows wrinkles, “On such freezing cold day, are you not cold?”
Gui Wan lightly moves away, leaning towards the inner side of the carriage, she does not reply.
After a moment of silence, Lou Che suddenly says: “From the south we have just received the tribute of two rare artic snow wolf skin, it is most warm for winter, how about I get someone to make an outfit for you?”
Gui Wan smiles, “Shouldn’t it be for the Empress and Consort Ying?”
Lou Che’s expression remains composed, his smile unaffected, “The Empress’ outfit is no longer needed.”
Gui Wan looks dead onto Lou Che, just like how she had seen him before, her husband’s outer appearance is as warm as jade, but inside he is actually as ice cold as frost, thinking back to the mournful scene of the Empress in the palace, her heart turns sour, asking: “The Empress’ matter, was it your doing?”
Lou Che froze, didn’t think that this question would be bluntly put out by Gui Wan, many secretly thinks this, but to dare to ask about it, there is none, thinking back to Gui Wan getting fairly close to the Empress as of late, he suddenly understands why she has been acting so uncharacteristically today, “Gui Wan, don’t get involved in politics, this involves a lot of relations inside.”
“You know the Empress is innocent,” Gui Wan says, “You know that. For Consort Ying, do you want to take this opportunity to dispose of the Empress? How could you do this? For one woman, you want to ruin the back palace?” Her words causes her chest to rise and fall, looking a little bit emotionally unstable.
“Gui Wan……” Lou Che grabs hold of her arm, “Listen to me……”
Gui Wan says nothing, indifferently waiting for his explanation, Lou Che helplessly laughs, slowly saying: “This matter is not as simple as you think it is, this matter is indirectly related to the Empress. Behind all of this, there is also the distribution of family problems involved and the power forces within the imperial court. You cannot listen to the words of the Empress.”
Hearing his words, Gui Wan’s expression is much more at ease, lightly asking: “If the Empress was to get involved in this matter, what will happen?” Without waiting for Lou Che’s reply, she speaks again, “Can you not harm the Empress? Leave her with a way out, she is after all a mother, she is the mother of the current crown prince.”
He has never seen Gui Wan’s emotions rise so high, this girl has always been so indifferent, to actually reveal such amiable delivery of tenderness right now, he finds himself unable to bear to disagree with her request, Lou Che could not help but to let out a sigh, nodding his head, in promise to her.
Gui Wan’s heart relaxes, as long as Lou Che promises, the problem should not be too severe, she reveals a gleaming smile, “Lord Husband, thank you.”
Seeing this smile again, Lou Che also smiles, a smile like that of the spring breeze in March.
 The Chapter opens up with the last two lines of the poem Viewing the Snow Peaks of Mount Zhong Nan by Zu Yong…
 Hù / 护 means to protect, whilst guó / 国 means country or nation, so the name of the temple hù guó sì / 护国寺 literally translates to Protect the Nation/Country Temple. [Additional note: Hu Guo Temple actually existed but there is only a traditional street named after it today - Hu Guo Si Street - plus there’s a widely known snack restaurant there called Huo Guo Si Xiao Chi]
 The actual proverb used for a constant change of events is fēng yún biàn huàn / 风云变幻 which translates to amidst the changes of the winds and clouds.
 First Ranked Scholar or zhuàng yuan / 状元 means the scholar who passes the imperial exam in first place of course, the term is similar to how people would refer to valedictorians in America, etc. except that there is no valedictory speech so I can’t really apply this as the translation. [Additional note: Nowadays the term, zhuàng yuan / 状元 is used to refer to those who excels in certain areas]
 Elder Statesman is the rough translation for guó zhàng / 国丈 which is an addressment for the Emperor’s father in law, the Empress’ father. His position as the father in law to the Emperor makes him a grand elder to the state also.
 Picturesque, in Chinese it is said like rú shī rú huà / 如诗如画 - which literally means, like that of poems and paintings.
 A complexion as clear as jade or miàn rú guān yù / 面如冠玉 - an expression referring to a handsome man.
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