Chapter 24 – Palpitating Heart
“Father Emperor had assumed that I was lacking in education, but after testing me at school he was very impressed at my knowledge. He gave me many gifts as a reward but I wanted to save it all for you!”
Gong Yi Mo smiled approvingly. “You are generous, child, but since he gave them to you you should keep it. Remember what I’ve told you recently?”
She had wanted Gong Jue to be safely hidden from the spotlight before he matured, leaving only a slight impression to those around him. Gong Jue nodded understandingly at her concern. “Yes I remember. For now I should only reveal a portion of my abilities, neither being too prominent nor too low in skill.
Maintaining a moderate level of performance was safest. If he was too talented or too incompetent, then he would draw people’s attention. Since he couldn’t protect himself at all times, this was the best safety measure they could take for now.
As Gong Yi Mo resumed applying medicine, her hand inadvertently swept across the sensitive part of his chest, catching the boy by surprise. Gong Jue couldn’t help but tremble as all the thoughts in his mind were thrown into chaos. His face quickly turned bright red from embarrassment.
“Sister…I can apply the rest of the medicine myself.”
When he reached out to grab the bottle of ointment, he never expected for Gong Yi Mo to lift it up high while staring back at him with a mischievous smile.
“Ah, I didn’t expect my little brother to be so innocent. That’s no good, if you are too pure, who knows when another woman would come along to snatch you. It seems that I’ll have to train you!”
She resumed smearing the medicine onto him, regardless of his self-consciousness.
Whether or not it was done intentionally, Gong Yi Mo’s fingertips gently slid across his abdomen, causing Gong Jue to inhale nervously. His heartbeat thudded loudly in his ears. Gong Jue was aware of the heat that rose from within, but despite his discomfort, he didn’t dare to resist, afraid to cause her any displeasure.
Unfortunately, Gong Yi Mo never shared such feelings, since even such intimate contact meant nothing much to her. Knowing this left him discouraged.
He silently looked away, hoping that she wouldn’t notice the sadness in his eyes or the tightness of his lip as he clenched his teeth. It would be disastrous if she saw more of his true desires and labeled him as a wolf.
But despite his efforts to restrain himself, her hands were teasing; she pinched him here and there before saying with a satisfied voice, “As expected of a child I’m raising. These muscles are so toned and beautiful! If another woman approaches, you should be careful not to have your tofu eaten!”
Gong Jue suddenly grabbed her hand, his eyes filled with hurt. Gong Yi Mo was left speechless for a moment.
“No one else!”
Gong Jue looked her in the eyes, then gently brought her hand over his heart. After a brief silence he spoke, his voice low with intimacy. “There is no one else. Only Sister Gong can come to me. There will never be another.”
Gong Yi Mo was startled by his declaration. She quickly pulled back her hand but her faint blush couldn’t be hidden, even as she turned away. However, she could still sense the intensity of his gaze as he stared straight at her. The boy was serious.
At this moment, she could no longer think of the person before her as a mere child. Without her being aware, he had already grown up to be serious and mature. Despite his age, she could almost consider him as an adult!
Has Gong Jue already matured that far?
As the full force of the situation hit her, she began to feel hot with embarrassment and shame.
“What the hell! You’ll be having a wife someday! If you don’t dare to touch her, how can you have children in the future?!”
Immediately after the words left her, she felt she was getting ahead of herself. Gong Jue was merely nine years old so he wouldn’t understand what she was implying.
However, she forgot that being nine years old was not too young in ancient times.
Historically, even children could enter marriage by the age of fourteen. It wasn’t unusual if a twelve-year-old girl were to give birth. She had always measured him using modern standards, which was why she had treated him as a child.
Gong Jue was worried he may have frightened her as he watched her stiffen and pull way. He closed his eyes, regained his composure, then resumed his innocent and shy expression like he usually did. In this way she wouldn’t know his true thoughts.
“Whether I marry a wife or not doesn’t matter. For me, I’m happy as long as I have Sister Gong!”
What a sensible child!
Gong Yi Mo threw her worries behind. But this time she was determined to find a good match for Gong Jue! Who needs Su Miaolan anyways. She can just roll out of our way!
After a month, Gong Jue’s injury had almost fully healed.
During this time, he was able to meet all of his brothers and sisters, adding up to a total of thirty nine children. The eldest of the group, a young man twenty-two years of age, had left to pursue his career while the youngest was still in his infancy.
Because Gong Yi Mo was highly favored by the emperor, she continued to receive rewards from his hand. She even asked for a gift in behalf of Gong Jue. After recovering in the Taiji temple, he was immediately sent to Tai He Palace[note]Tai He Palace/Hall of Supreme Harmony 太和殿– one of the three major halls of the Imperial Palace; building with the most entrances, most depth, and highest roof. The emperor’s enlistment and the ceremony for setting up the empress were held here. The Hall of Supreme Harmony is a symbol of imperial power.[/note] for his residence, while Gong Yi mo remained in the temple. The jealous onlookers had no choice but to turn a blind eye towards the arrogant emperor’s decree.
Although Gong Jue felt wronged for being ignored by his father, the fact that Gong Yi Mo was favored by the emperor left him a feeling of warmth. She was his beloved Sister Gong after all. There was no need for jealousy.
…. … …
Later after class, a boy stepped in front of Gong Jue at the courtyard. The young prince guarded himself as he saw who was blocking his path.
The boy who stood in his way was Gong Qi, Liu Xian Fei’s son.
Seeing the older prince before him, Gong Jue couldn’t help but remember his own mother’s, Li Ching Hua’s, passing. Back then, she was severely poisoned, and in just a few days her health seemed to wither away like a wilted tree. Liu Xian Fei then accused his mother of an unforgivable crime, citing numerous evidences against her. When Liu Xian Fei went to confront Li Ching Hua one night, the sickly concubine could not handle the emotional burden and passed away that very evening.
Before she died, his mother held Gong Jue’s hand and tearfully cried, “I’m sorry, I won’t be able to see you grow up.” He was too young to understand the sadness behind her eyes then. He could only recall how she pulled his hand, and said over and over again, “The death of this concubine was deserved. Do not seek revenge…”
Do not seek revenge. Until this day, Gong Jue never understood why she asked him not to do so.
Meanwhile, Gong Qi stared at the boy before him with undisguised jealousy. Even though Gong Jue was motherless and unfavored, he still enjoyed his present luxuries that Gong Qi felt he didn’t deserve.
Their sister, Gong Yi Mo, was spoiled by the emperor with many gifts, while Gong Qi still hadn’t met their father for the past half month.
That was why Gong Qi felt ashamed. Gong Yi Mo was favored and yet he was cast aside! What was so good about her?!
Gong Jue spoke. “Do you have any business with me?” He kept his voice cold and his eyebrows were furrowed.
Gong Qi looked at him up and down. “Nothing, I just wanted to see what kind of prince who depends on a girl looks like,” he sneered. “Now that I’m looking at you, you really are as delicate as a girl.”