Chapter 45: Granted.

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I secretly asked myself before agreeing with him. What His Majesty said was not wrong.

I had never trusted him from the very beginning.

Things like trust could not be obtained without deep affections and going through life and death together.

Even though I had been in his arms for such a long time, I never really trusted him.

His phoenix eyes appeared desolate and angry, “Zhen’s sincerity is not enough to gain the empress’ trust…”

I felt really guilty, it was as though I had taken advantage of him and kept on receiving without giving.

“Seems like the empress still cannot trust zhen. Why don’t you copy the books ten more times and learn a little more from those momos? When you are ready to marry; when you have finished copying the books and have learned enough; when you have learned to trust your husband, we will discuss the date of the marriage. What do you think?”

I grabbed onto his dragon robe and refused to let go, “Your Majesty, I really trusts you now! Let’s get married, the faster the better!”

He wrapped his arms around me and glued his forehead against mine. There were traces of laughter in his phoenix eyes, “Since the empress is that excited to marry zhen, we should prepare the decree. Somebody come! Ask the Department of Rites to come up with an auspicious date for the marriage ceremony!” As Tian Bing Qing replied, Feng Zhao Wen gave my face a heavy kiss.

Once my feet landed back on the ground, I suddenly had doubts: I actually brought up the marriage thing with my own mouth. Something seemed off with this.

As for him, he seemed really happy today. He no longer forced me to ‘study in preparation of the marriage’. Having been able to escape copying books, I felt really pleased, myself.

As for the matter of trust, he gave me a deep and profound lesson once night fell. I knew better than to doubt His Majesty again. I trusted him as much as I trusted myself; I would never think nonsense again. I would no longer worry about losing my head, about dying, about what he planned behind everybody’s back and things like that.

After His Majesty finished with his sweaty lesson, he hugged me while lying on the dragon bed, his voice gentle as he spoke, “The Great Chen is a perished country. As for the seal, Uncle Tong told me that you had unintentionally buried it with the late regent. Those secret soldiers were originally loyal to the Great Chen. Even if you dig it out from the regent’s tomb, they will not simply change their loyalty to me. What use does it has to me? I heard those soldiers were warriors that were trained by the late regent. They are lying in wait for further orders, living in the mountains and valleys in a self-sustaining environment. From now on, let’s leave them be.”

The large stone in my heart disappeared. I rubbed his soaked chest before whining softly, “How smelly!” But I couldn’t help from settling more comfortably against his chest. The desire to be inside his chest was paramount, it felt so intimate.

He slowly stroke my back with his large palm, just like my Father used to do to coax me to sleep.

I peacefully entered the dreamland while nestling against him.

An imperial wedding was one cumbersome and grand affair.

On the next day, I was surrounded by guards as I was sent back to An Residence to wait for my wedding day.

Before departing, His Majesty twisted my ear and repeatedly reminded me to maintain my distance with my ‘brother’. If there were to be any contact, be it pulling my brother by the wrist, I would continue copying books once I return to the palace until I understood the concept of ‘maintaining distance between men and women’.

E Huang was appointed as my supervisor, she would follow me wherever I go.

In my opinion, His Majesty’s heart was extraordinarily small. Xiao Huang and I grew up together; we ate from the same bowl and slept on the same bed. ‘Maintaining distance between men and women’ was a little too late by now.

I had learned to be obedient these days. Opening my mouth and arguing with him would be pointless, so I simply took everything in.

Uncle Tong and Xiao Huang accepted my return in joy. The little miss on the other hand, appeared disheartened as she followed Xiao Huang closely from behind.

E Huang stepped forward to greet him, “E Huang greets the Marquis!”

Only then did I realized that Feng Zhao Wen had fulfilled his promise to me. It was only because of me that he changed his mind and spared Xiao Huang’s life.

I turned to E Huang, telling her I want to return to the palace to thank His Majesty. E Huang turned around and whipped out a brush before writing, ‘A day is like three autumns for Her Ladyship when His Majesty is not around. She has only returned to her maiden home and she already wanted to return to the palace to be with His Majesty.’ After she finished writing that, she handed the paper over to a guard who was riding a horse.

She….. Just what was wrong with her sense of perception?

His Majesty’s reply was a lot simpler, ‘Granted’.

E Huang wept tearlessly as she handed the paper to me, asking how she should answer to that.

How was it possible for me to wait for the wedding procession in the palace?

After getting teased by me, she sat on top of a little stool near my bed and whipped out a brush again. I went over to look at what she wrote, ‘Her Ladyship has taken her lesson seriously after copying books. Although she yearned greatly for Your Majesty, she does not wish to go against the rules. She just wished for a token of love from Your Majesty to curb her yearning.’

I gritted my teeth as I twisted her ear, this girl was acting on her own whim.

When Feng Zhao Wen’s reply came, the content was very simple, ‘Granted.’ His inner cloth was sent along with the letter.

I hugged his inner clothing and sighed, “My reputation is marred.”

E Huang blinked at me in confusion, “Your Ladyship, your reputation was never clean.”

I accepted the tonic she gave me and finished it in one shot. I felt really bad for myself. Never mind the fact that I was about to marry an unreliable man, even the people around me were unreliable. Would I be able to endure the coming days?

Now, the An Residence had been turned into the Marquis of An’s Residence. Every day, our manor was frequented by people of esteemed status. Uncle Tong was used to peace and quiet. Even the Marquis of An Le was not happy with the disturbance. There were armed guards outside the entrance so it was hard for people to get in. E Huang would look out of the window and would tell me all about our visitors, “That is the Minister of Rite….. That is the Vice-Minister of Military Affairs….. The one who just walked away is the Chief Minister of the Court of Judicial Review…..”

The entire lane was filled with carriages, prompting my neighbors to look out of their doors.

Xiao Huang offered an idea after telling the little miss to make him tea, “Jiejie, those people came while bearing gifts. Why don’t we open the door for them so they can hand over their gifts?” The little miss looked really miserable when she came over.

That brat probably spent too much time with me in the mountains; he had became very economic and street-smart. He had no resistance to gold and silver.

In my opinion, he had the tendency to become a good-for-nothing young marquis, so I knocked him in the head to reprimand him, “You are now the emperor’s brother-in-law. If I catch news of you doing anything shady, I will break your legs!”

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E Huang rushed over and stopped me in a panic. Her face was red, “Have you forgotten, Your Ladyship?”

I looked at my finger that was casually pointed against Xiao Huang’s head and had the decency to be embarrassed. This was out of habit!

On the night before the marriage, I asked him why he held onto the little miss and refused to let go.

He sneakily whispered to my ear, “Jiejie did not know this. When I followed Yi Wang back then, he said I needed to get stronger. He instructed that girl to teach me martial arts. She was completely merciless, now that she is in my hand, I will show her what this marquis is capable of…” Before he even finished speaking, E Huang panickingly pulled our bodies apart.

By now, he was already used to calling himself ‘the Marquis of An’. There were so many people from the palace in our manor, after all. However, I, on the other hand, was not used to E Huang’s pestering and repeated reminder.

“What have you promised His Majesty, Your Ladyship? Why do you keep forgetting that?”

I finally felt the sorrow of someone who was not allowed to be near the child that she practically raised. At least, I was better than those old aunties. They raised their children with their heart and soul only for them to be snatched away by young girls.

Just imagining about that sorrowful scene broke my heart.

In the end, I decided that what the eyes did not see could be considered to be not there.

Uncle Tong’s eyes were red when he wiped his eyes while standing in my room. His tall stature had gradually became hunched and his hair was in the colour of silver. He seemed to have aged faster than I thought he would.

My heart turned sour. I went and offered incense sticks in front of Father’s tablet, “You sure had shrug off your responsibilities. You handed all the responsibilities to Uncle Tong. Now that he is old, this daughter has decided to make him my foster father and takes care of him in his old days. I believe you will have no objection to that, right Father?”

Uncle Tong objected to that from the sideline, “Xiao Lang, how can that be? I will be satisfied with just managing the manor.”

I kowtowed in front of the tablet, “Father, if you disagree to that, climb out of your grave and hit me! Otherwise, I will take that as an agreement!”

Smoke from the incense sticks curled in front of the tablet while Uncle Tong’s choking sobs could be heard.

Under my prompt, Xiao Huang placed three incense sticks in front of the altar and ignored his manly pride as he knelt down. He kowtowed three times, “Father—“

(TN: In Chinese culture, it is said that there is a mountain of gold and jade under a man’s knees. That’s why they hardly kneels unless it’s in front of their parents/ancestors.)

I spoke with a low voice, “Father, you had always wanted a son. Now, this daughter had picked up a son for you to continue our An Clan’s bloodline. Are you happy?”

Xiao Huang quickly spoke after me, “Father!”

The way he addressed ‘Father’ this time was a lot more sincere than the way he addressed his ‘Imperial Father’ back then. I felt very satisfied with this. I gave him words of advice, “Once jiejie moved out after marriage, you must listen to our foster father. Do not do stupid things, do not bully other people. Close the gate and live a peaceful life. As for your marriage—“ My eyes fleeted over to the little miss, “It is entirely up to you. Just pick a good person, one that our foster father approved of and the rest will be fine.”

He obediently nodded.

I patted his head and E Huang rolled her eyes at us.

On the next day, I was dressed in red from head to toe. All those dowries that Feng Zhao Wen gifted us were carried back to the palace. I was wearing a phoenix robe while riding a phoenix chariot.

(TN: In Ancient China, the womenfolk usually brought their dowries with them to their new families. The dowries were usually their mothers’. The dowries represented their social status. More dowries = more wealth/style. Since AY’s family was poor, FZW gave her make-shift dowries so she could enter the palace with style.)

The palace was like a sea of red. People were kneeling on the ground while fireworks kept on exploding to no end. Ancestral worships were performed and banquets were held and it went on for three days. It was really tiring for me. His Majesty seemed really spirited though. He paid extra attention to keep me company these past few days.

On the fourth day, Zhong Hua Palace finally became a little quiet. His Majesty was hugging me while sleeping soundly when a loud noise could be heard from outside. It sounded faintly like women fighting.

“Tian Bing Qing———“

Tian Bing Qing was probably keeping guards outside. When he heard Feng Zhao Wen’s voice, he quickly replied, “Your Majesty, Your Ladyship, the palace’s concubines are here to pay their respect.”

“Let them wait outside!”

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Feng Zhao Wen shook me, “Xiao Yi, it is time to get up. We need to receive the concubines’ greetings as per etiquette. Then, we need to pay respect to the empress dowager.”

I turned around and continued sleeping, mumbling in a soft voice, “Those concubines are yours, not mine. Why force them to meet me?”

He tickled my under-arm twice and completely chased away my sleepiness. He leisurely spoke, “Is the empress jealous?”

………………

I only felt a little uncomfortable, that was all.

He pinched me in the waist before laughing teasingly, “You can just consider them as ornaments of the palace. If you like them, look at them. If you don’t like them, send them away. Why waste your time thinking about them?

I climbed up to him and pressed him down, concentrating half of my body weight on his chest. My two eyes were sparkling, “Are you telling the truth? Those concubines are only decorations?”

He nodded, “Does the empress need to continue copying books? Why are you still having a hard time trusting zhen?”

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