Chapter 30 – Drought In Xi Zhou
Actually, what did Gong Jue think of her? Gong Yi Mo turned to her brother and cautiously asked, “Tell me, what was the matter with that wooden sculpture you made?” Usually, she wasn’t as quick to judge as the ancients were. However, she did not want to misunderstand his actual feelings for her just because she was close to him all the time.
As for whether Gong Jue was attracted to her, Gong Yi Mo had never considered this possibility. Afterall, who would develop feelings for an elder sister who raised them like a mother? That would be crazy. And she was sure that Gong Jue thought of her as a blood relative. In ancient times, sibling romance was unacceptable, so she did not believe Gong Jue had any such thoughts about her.
As Gong Yi Mo spoke, she walked over to the table and reached for the teapot. Xin’er noticed her movement and quickly came to her side. She brought over the teapot and diligently poured her tea.
Meanwhile, Gong Jue’s mind was shaken from hearing her question. He was filled with complex feelings of fear, joy, bitterness, and hopelessness.
He did not know how to tell her. Last night, when a maidservant drugged him with aphrodisiac, he immediately shut himself in the palace, but his mind was filled with his sister’s figure.
…Her sweet smile, her melancholic expression, her carefree manners, all these things blurred in his mind… and… when she practiced martial arts, her sleeve swept aside to reveal her white skin. When they fought closely, his eyes were drawn to her bright red lips… Gong Jue felt himself going crazy, so he spent the entire night immersed in cold water.
Unfortunately, by the second day, his poison still hadn’t completely faded. He still felt feverish and hot. In order to distract himself from his lustful thoughts, he turned to carving wood. But before he realized it, he was carving his sister’s image! He was so alarmed by his own subconscious act that he couldn’t stop himself from lashing out when the Fourteenth Prince made fun of him and slandered his sister.
When Gong Yi Mo noticed that her brother had remained silent for a long time, she started to look at him suspiciously. However, Gong Jue suddenly looked up at her with a pair of aggrieved, watery eyes and said, “Could it be that even Sister Gong doesn’t believe in me? The wooden figure… It was originally for Sister Gong.”
Gong Yi Mo believed most of what he said and gave no further inquiries into the matter. Instead, she ordered the servants to bring in their meals. After dealing with troubles for a day, she was so tired and hungry that her brain could not think.
Gong Jue secretly felt relieved after she set aside the matter.
He couldn’t tell her openly about his affections.
He was afraid–if the matter was discovered, not only would the emperor shun her, even the rest of the kingdom would maliciously slander her.
This era was harsh on women. Unless he possessed the power to suppress all public opinion…
Unless he was strong!
This idea took root deeply in his heart for the first time. As long as he was strong, no one would be able to get in his way!
Gong Yi Mo… Oh, Gong Yi Mo!
Time flowed quickly, and two years flew by. Now, Gong Jue was eleven, and Gong Yi Mo was twelve years old.
The most popular news in recent years? It would have to be about how the Chaoyang Princess was greatly favored! For some unknown reason, the emperor suddenly started heavily spoiling the princess, who was formerly shunned in the cold palace. Even the Crown Prince did not receive nearly as much attention as she did.
Gong Yi Mo was fond of cold drinks, so the Taiji Palace’s kitchen was supplied with ice all year round.
Because she could not get accustomed to using chamber pots, the palace had sewers built according to the drawings she gave; she even exhausted their manpower to build water towers and filters. From then on, every building had “tap water”, and it allowed the servants to save plenty of energy.
There were countless other inventions that Gong Yi Mo had introduced, and in the process, she ended up unknowingly doing many good deeds.
The invention of the sewage pipeline was soon implemented throughout the capital. To promote sanitation, the Chaoyang Princess also introduced “cotton paper” for bathroom uses, which unexpectedly even improved the process of papermaking. This made scholars’ everyday lives much more convenient. Not just paper production–she had also invented the letterpress and the hard-tipped pen
There seemed to be endless ideas and wonders in her little head. It was no wonder the emperor would spoil her from day to day; even the common people were filled with gratitude towards her.
… … …
Zhaoyang Palace, Side Hall.
Emperor Gong sat leisurely on his dragon chair as he listened to his subjects. This place was similar to a study room, so the rules here were not as strict as the Main Hall’s. Sitting closest to the emperor was neither the crown prince nor the prime minister, but rather, the Chaoyang Princess. Right now, she was sitting comfortably on a soft chair.
How could a woman be present while the government discussed political affairs? Many old ministers were dissatisfied, but some of the young courtiers had accepted her presence. They felt that not bringing the princess to the Main Hall was already a fair enough concession by the emperor.
Right now, the court was discussing topics that couldn’t be resolved in the Main Hall, so they brought it over to Zhaoyang Palace. This was considered overtime, so the princess was invited.
Gong Yi Mo yawned in boredom, attracting glares from a group of old ministers.
The current topic was about the annual drought in Xi Zhou. No one could put forth a decent plan.
Xi Zhou was a dry basin. Due to the absence of a source of water, the civilians were in a state of unrest. The hot weather had even affected drought-resistant plants, leaving a meager harvest for their farmers. Thus, in the past three years, the emperor had to send supplies in two. It was an old issue.
One of the ministers stepped forward. He took a quick glimpse at Gong Jue, who also stood in the hall, before saying, “Xi Zhou’s land isn’t fertile, and aside from droughts, the people suffer from sand storms all year round. Since our kingdom is experiencing a time of peace and prosperity, presumably, Zhen Xi Wang** does not need to manage so much of the military. If we recover half of his 100,000 soldiers, the pressure on the court would be relieved and we will be much more efficient in giving disaster relief.[note]Zhen Xi Wang 镇西王— “Prince of the West” Gong Jue’s grandfather on his mother’s side… will call him Zhen Xi Wang from now on.[/note]
Gong Jue narrowed his eyes and smiled coldly at those ministers.
At eleven years old, he was half a head taller than Gong Yi Mo. His deep eyes and handsome sharp features could easily intimidate onlookers. And yet, for these past two years, his reliance on his sisters’ advice made him appear less threatening.
The issue of Xi Zhou’s drought was previously mentioned by Sister Gong. A few years ago, after the Empress’ birthday, Gong Jue was able to meet his cousin who was visiting from Xi Zhou. Since then, he had been able to stay in close contact with his grandfather, Zhen Xi Wang, who ruled that land. Someone would definitely try to take advantage of the drought and seize control of his maternal grandfather’s military power. However, when he told Sister Gong about his worries, she immediately brightened up and said it was an opportunity.
Thinking of it, Gong Jue couldn’t help but look at the drowsy princess, and his face turned gentle for a moment.
The old minister’s earlier words contained some truth. Every year, Xi Zhou needed disaster relief. Whether or not there were battles to fight, fewer people would definitely help the situation, so some also agreed with him.
But this was only a temporary solution that didn’t address the root cause. Gong Che frowned slightly, feeling that such a method had hidden dangers.
At this time, the left minister stepped forward. “Your Majesty, your subject believes that his words are justified. Zhen Qi Wang has defended Xi Zhou for years, yet he is helpless when confronted with the drought. Presumably, his old age makes it difficult for him to handle such a heavy responsibility. It would be best if we have him return to the capital to retire.”
With the minister’s words, the blame for a problem that no one could solve was easily pushed onto Zhen Qi Wang, saying that it persisted because of his inability to rule, and he recommended bringing the old prince back to the capital as a solution. And such a suggestion sounded appealing. Zhen Qi Wang held considerable power and reputation in Xi Zhou. However, if he was brought back to the capital, he would simply become an idle old man without military power. In that case, not to mention his family prospering, even avoiding catastrophe would be lucky for him.
Emperor Gong was aware of these advantages. However, for the time being, he did not want to remove Zhen Qi Wang from his position unless he could find a clear solution to the drought. At this time, the emperor turned to look down upon Gong Yi Mo.
“Chaoyang Princess, what do you think of this issue?”
Seeing the emperor turn to a little princess for advice, many ministers scowled in displeasure. Unfortunately, they had been shot down many times before as a warning to others. Now, they hid their complaints in their hearts, not daring to speak up again.