Chapter 416 - The Forbidden City

Fang Zizhen had returned yesterday night and he taught his adopted family all that they had to know about the etiquette of the imperial palace. Both father and daughter had been woken up early in the morning today and, after a flurry of preparations, they rode a horse carriage to the Imperial City under Fang Zizhen’s lead. Outside the Meridian Gate, they got off from the carriage. 

Su Ran had already been waiting from behind the gates since dawn. Yu Xiaocao, who was originally a little unnerved because she had to meet the emperor in court, felt her body and soul relax once she saw the ever-graceful Sir Su standing there. 

Sir Su was the head steward who took care of all the internal matters of the Imperial City and was the trusted aide of the emperor. Every single official that came to attend court smiled and saluted him courteously. What was there to be afraid of when he personally came to meet the two of them? 

In any case, the whole court already knew that she and her father came from the countryside, so it was justifiable if they were lacking in the aspect of court etiquette, right? Yu Xiaocao’s steps became lighter and lighter the more she thought about this, and her original reservedness turned into nonchalance. 

Since there was still some time before court proceedings began, she slowed down in her footsteps and started to appreciate the sights of the Imperial City. Above the Meridian Gate sat a pavilion with double eaves that looked as though they were five phoenixes about to take off into the air. This was also why the Imperial City was called the Hall of Five Phoenixes. 

Once she passed through the Meridian Gate, she saw five bridges made of white marble that passed over the moat. Paired with the majestic Meridian Gate and the brilliance of the buildings, they formed an enchanting painting. The intricately carved bridge railing that looked like white jade belts made Yu Xiaocao want to take down a piece to bring home and keep as a momento. 

She caressed the white marble railing, reluctant to part with it. Yu Xiaocao was about to walk onto the center bridge that was carved with a coiling dragon when Su Ran pulled her back, pointing to the stone bridge to the right as he smiled, “That’s our bridge. Only the emperor can cross on this center bridge. The court officials cross over on all the others…” 

Realization hit Yu Xiaocao that moment, and she chanced another glance at the intricately carved coiled dragon. Even after she crossed the stone bridge, she still couldn’t help but look back at it. Su Ran shook his head in amusement and slowed down in his footsteps, following Xiaocao’s speed. 

After they passed the five white marble bridges, they quickly arrived at a brilliant and magnificent palace. This was the Hall of Supreme Harmony that was depicted in countless dramas. She walked until she was at the wide platform in front of the hall. There, she saw copper turtles and cranes that were crafted so skilfully they looked almost alive. It was just as her younger brother from her previous life had told her when he came back from his visit to the Forbidden City. These graceful and magnificent copper statues represented the long reign of this nation! She honestly couldn’t see the relation. 

She stopped in her tracks and looked up. On the eaves of the roof of the palace sat a carving of an immortal sitting on a phoenix. Behind it, there were many small beasts of different forms, and every one of them was extremely lifelike. The glazed, golden yellow roof tiles of the palace, the bright red pillars and all the mix of the colors—it was just too much for her eyes to take in.  

The throne room was where matters of the state were discussed, but now, there was actually a little girl who was relaxed and leisurely strolling about, as though she were strolling through her garden at home. All the officials that came to attend court gave her a sidelong glance. What surprised them even more was the fact that the person who was leading the little miss was actually Chief Steward Su who served the emperor! 

What was the origin of this little miss? Even though the clothes and accessories made her look as though she was an official’s daughter, they were ultimately still ordinary clothes and accessories! But Chief Steward Su was amiable towards her, even to the point of accommodation. Chief Steward Su’s every action and word represented the emperor’s intentions, so didn’t this mean that the emperor thought highly of this unfamiliar little miss? 

Look! Look! Isn’t this little miss acting too casually? She actually dared to touch the copper crane in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony! Did she think that this was a stroll in her own garden? And not only did Chief Steward Su not reprimand and stop her, but he was also smiling and even stood to the side to wait for her! If they weren’t aware that the emperor only had one five-year-old little princess, the court officials would believe that this little miss was actually the emperor’s most favored princess! 

Eh? It was possible! This little miss looked about ten years old, and the emperor loved to travel around the world before he took over the throne. Could it be that she was his daughter who had been lost among the commoners? The more they made up, the more the court officials believed their story to be true. If she was a daughter from the prestigious families of the capital, she would be careful with every action she made, especially when she entered the imperial palace. Which daughter of the capital’s prestigious families would be like her and touch the beak of the copper crane with her small hand? 

Many court officials couldn’t help but slow down in their steps as they reached the platform in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, their eyes shining with gossip. At this moment, Minister Liu hurried up the steps. His gaze paused when he saw a spot of pink among the throng of court officials’ robes. Recognizing the familiar figure, Minister Liu’s face erupted into a grin, walking to the person that had attained the focus of all the court officials. He called out, “Miss Yu, long time no see! How are you?” 

Hearing this, Yu Xiaocao turned around and saw Minister Liu. A smile broke out on her face as she said, “Official Liu! You’re here to attend court?” 

The crowd of court officials all thought, ‘Isn’t this a redundant question? If we’re not here to attend court, then what are we doing?’ 

Su Ran noticed that Minister Liu seemed to have a lot to say to Xiaocao, so he hurried to cut them off before the other man could continue. Towards Yu Xiaocao, he asked warmly, “Miss Xiaocao, it’s about time for court. Shall we enter the hall and await for the emperor?” 

Yu Xiaocao nodded, smiling, “Sir Su, do you all attend court at this hour every time? It’s so early! It seems that it’s quite difficult no matter if you’re the emperor or the court officials!” 

Su Ran smiled faintly but didn’t reply, simply gesturing for her to enter. Yu Xiaocao turned her head to look at her reserved father who had been quietly following behind her all this time, and comforted, “Father, don’t be afraid! You’ve met the emperor before. He’s quite a nice person. When the time comes, we’ll just answer whatever he asks. If we can’t answer, we can just shake our heads. We’re only commoners after all, and we haven’t seen any big affairs before, so it’s completely understandable if we don’t know!” 

The officials that passed-by her gave her another sidelong glance when they heard her words. When in court, who didn’t consider their answer over and over before they answered the emperor’s questions? Who wasn’t extremely careful with their words, afraid that they would say the wrong things if they were careless? This little miss said it so casually. Did you think that your family owned the court, that the emperor would ‘play’ with you? 

After her conversation with Minister Liu, every court official now knew that Xiaocao was the little countryside lass who was skilled in agriculture. No wonder, after all, she was of low birth! Oh right, isn’t this lass also the goddaughter of General Fang? Did General Fang and his wife not teach this little lass palace etiquette yesterday? It was not a surprise either. Fang Zizhen was so uncouth, so what would he know? It was enough if he didn’t mess up himself! In a moment, they needed to watch as these peasants disgraced themselves in front of the emperor. 

Those court officials that disagreed with the idea of awarding an official’s rank to the Yu Family waited to watch the drama and their gazes lit up with epicaricacy. Zhu Junyang , who had been unable to pick up Xiaocao from the Fang Residence because he was late to leave his residence, felt the ill intent of the officials and couldn’t help scrunching up his brows. His face turned cold as he took to standing beside Yu Xiaocao, using his actions to tell everyone else that he supported his little lass! 

Yu Xiaocao leisurely came to the doors of the Hall of Supreme Harmony and looked inside. The emperor’s imperial throne sat on top of the seven layered platforms in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Naturally, as the emperor’s throne, it was intricately carved and extremely lavish, and behind the throne was seven dividers that had carvings of clouds and dragons. There were about a dozen golden dragons coiled around the rim of the throne and the pattern of two dragons spitting a pearl was carved onto the base of the throne. The whole throne shimmered with gold, displaying the absolute pre-eminence of the person who sat on that treasured seat. 

The moment she stepped into the hall, Yu Xiaocao noticed that all the civil and the military officials had already separated into two sides and lined up in an orderly fashion. There wasn’t any space for her and her father to stand, so she dumbfoundedly asked, “Sir Su, where do we stand?” 

At the side, an official with a thin beard wearing a set of dark red, second-rank court official’s robes sneered, sliding his gaze over, “Where is there space for you to stand in this hall?” 

“Official Yang! Don’t you think your words are too much?” Zhu Junyang exuded a terrifying cold aura and his phoenix eyes filled with a growing darkness. An air of bloodlust seemed to engulf him, and even such an old and experienced official as Imperial Censor Yang was struck with terror. 

No wonder Royal Prince Yang was said to be a devil. He was rumored to have a bad temper and not be able to recognize his own relatives when he was furious among the people of the capital. It seemed that the rumors were not groundless! Imperial Censor Yang shifted his eyes away, not daring to meet his gaze. 

Chief Steward Su Ran lightly glanced over Imperial Censor Yang, ‘This surnamed Yang seems to have gotten sick of being an official, always looking for trouble when there is none. It seems that it’s about time for the hidden guards to do a sweep through the Yang Residence!’ 

He turned towards Xiaocao, softly saying, “You and your father will wait here. In a while, his imperial majesty will call your names and summon you. He’ll casually ask you a few questions and then commend and reward you for your contributions. You don’t have to be nervous; you definitely won’t make a mistake if you maintain your composure!” 

Yu Xiaocao nodded slightly, a look of obedience on her face, “Rest assured, Sir Su. I am aware of the gravity of the situation, I won’t speak carelessly!” 

Head Steward Su Ran smiled at her, and moved to the Hall of Central Harmony that was behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony with quick steps. The Hall of Central Harmony was the place where the emperor rested before attending court. At this time, he should already be there! When he entered the grand doors of the Hall of Central Harmony, he indeed saw the emperor who was wearing bright imperial robes sitting on one of the red sandalwood chairs.  

“How was it? The little lass wasn’t scared silly, right?” Seeing him enter, Zhu Junfan asked with a smile. 

Su Ran recalled Yu Xiaocao’s leisurely pace, and how she didn’t show a hint of fear or worry as though she was strolling through her backyard and couldn’t help but laugh, “Replying to Your Majesty, Miss Xiaocao is very...collected!” 

Zhu Junfan raised his eyebrows, recalling the time when he had only transmigrated here and scorned the supposed rank restrictions and ideology on the distinguished and the humble. That lass probably had yet to experience the terrors of imperial authority, so naturally, she was still able to go about without much worry. At most, she would feel slightly unsettled as she was not familiar with this situation.  

“That lass has always been quite bold. Junyang told me that he once almost lost control in front of her, but it was because she made impromptu jokes that he was pulled back to sanity! You’ve also witnessed Junyang’s violence and the degree of terror he instills when he rages. The little lass didn’t faint under those circumstances, so how could the mere atmosphere of entering the imperial palace to meet the emperor scare her?” Zhu Junfan was a little regretful. He wasn’t present at that time, but he also wanted to witness how the little girl managed to subdue the cold-faced god of death. 

Su Ran resignedly watched the fascinated emperor, softly reminding, “Your Imperial Majesty, it’s time to attend court…”

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Translator: Vera