While the crown prince was busy with learning to govern and observing filial piety at the Violet Imperial Hall, Eunuch Fu did not remain by his side. It was Eunuch Chang instead who followed behind him. Eunuch Fu was busy overseeing the eastern palace.
As expected, very soon several of his “old acquaintances” came to the door.
Some of them he had a decent relationship with in the past, others were those he held a grudge against. There were more of the latter. But how harmful was it to bring up these past grudges? They were at most a few little secret spats. After so many years, they could just laugh it away.
Those who were around Eunuch Fu’s age and could muddle along in the palace all this time were all sharp old freaks. Knowing they were at a disadvantage, they knew that they had to lower their heads if they wanted to live out their years in the palace in peace. Eunuch Fu came to a tacit understanding with them. He remained vague with those who came to reminisce about old times, and accepted those who ingratiated themselves.
After a couple of rounds, he had won over quite a few people.
These people shouldn’t be underestimated. In this large palace, there were at most a hundred some masters, but there were hundreds of times more servants. These old freaks naturally had many young freaks under them, and the young freaks also had several apprentices of their own. The palace had always been this way. The eunuchs would have master and apprentice relationships, grandfathers taking on grandsons. The palace maids also had aunties and nanas above them.
Such a large group of people naturally belonged to different factions. Naturally, some were under Empress Xiao and Senior Concubine Xu. They had been in the palace for so many years. As the highest person in the palace, his majesty also had quite a few people under him. Of course, there were some who didn’t belong to any faction, or those who wanted to switch allegiances. Wasn’t the crown prince currently the best master to serve?
Although it was easy to add flowers on a brocade and hard to send charcoal in the winter, everyone needed some wood for their stove in ancient times. Those with sharp eyesight all flocked over, deeply afraid of falling behind.
Auntie Qi was in a similar situation to Eunuch Fu.
As the crown prince’s managing auntie, she may even become the esteemed official in charge of the interior department in the future. How could she be lacking in people trying to cozy up to her. Even Nana He had several old sisters from back in the day come reminisce with her.
The days passed smoothly. Not only was Luo Jing busy, his subordinates were working nonstop as well. Everyone made their preparations for moving into the palace in the future. After all, being the master of this palace was not as easy as it seemed.
Ever since Luo Jing was conferred the crown prince, he had been running back and forth between the Hall of Origin and the Violet Imperial Hall. He read through notes and learned to govern from the two ministers, and stood vigil at the Violet Imperial Hall during his free time. Although he had technically moved into the eastern palace, Luo Jing actually spent more time in the Violet Imperial Hall.
Everyone said the crown prince was filial. Whether this was truly the case, only Luo Jing knew in his heart. He knew extremely clearly that he had to do this whether or not he was willing.
Perhaps due to knowing his time was short, the previously opinionated, independent and even impulsive Emperor Xi’s attitude suddenly changed quite a bit. Perhaps it was also because he only had one suitable son remaining. During his brief periods of consciousness, he would often summon the crown prince and tell him about some of the matters of the court.
Compared to the ministers, Emperor Xi gave more specific examples. After all, he had been the emperor for many years, and understood the characters of his officials and their various factions like the back of his hand. Luo Jing would often feel enlightened when listening to him speak.
Unfortunately, Emperor Xi’s body had long since been hollowed out. Having suffered repeated stimulation recently, the only reason he could hang on was due to the various medicines. As time continued to pass, his energy faded more and more, and the amount of time he was conscious grew less and less. Now, there were even times when he wouldn’t wake for three days. According to the imperial hospital, he had perhaps a couple of days left.
The water outside turned to ice as the weather grew cold. The Violet Imperial Hall was filled with people.
Empress Xiao was there as well as Senior Concubine Xu. There were also a few of Emperor Xi’s high ranked concubines, and a few princesses of various ages. The room was filled with women, but Luo Jing was the only man present.
After some acupuncture and medicine, Emperor Xi slowly awoke.
The women’s weeping shook the heavens. Emperor Xi’s mouth moved and Zheng Hai Quan leaned over.
“His majesty orders for everyone to leave. Only the crown prince shall remain.”
Empress Xiao led the women out of the hall, leaving the crown prince behind.
Emperor Xi leaned against his pillow with the help of Zheng Hai Quan. His face contained an unnatural trace of color. Luo Jing new that he had just drank old ginseng soup, and this was essentially the final radiance of the setting sun.
“You’ve understood pretty much everything of what I needed to teach. The Grand Xi Nation will be left to you in the future.”
“Of the two ministers, Xu can be used. Lin needs to be carefully used….”
“Your son understands.”
Emperor Xi had already told Luo Jing this before. He understood the reasoning. Although Minister Xu was part of a faction, he could be said to be an independent official. Minster Lin was the opposite. Behind him stood a very complicated noble household. Nobility had to be used, but couldn’t be overly depended upon. They needed to be raised but also restrained.
Luckily, despite his deficiencies, Emperor Xi was rather clear about court affairs. The noble households had been suppressed by him for many years, and only the Lin family had successfully raised Lin Jian to the forefront.
Emperor Xi didn’t speak further. Zheng Hai Quan walked in and said softly: “The two ministers have arrived.”
The outside of the hall was filled with kneeling people. The sound of suppressed weeping filled the room.
Everyone felt extremely at a loss. After all, those who were kneeling were all related to Emperor Xi in some way. As the old emperor was replaced by the new generation, people like them would no longer be imperial concubines. Those with children were better off, but those without could only live out their days in the depths of the palace.
The calmest person amongst them was Empress Xiao. Out of all these people, she was the clear beneficiary. Once the new emperor ascended the throne, she would become the empress dowager. Since the new emperor didn’t have his birth mother, she would be the only empress dowager within the rear palace.
The Grand Xi Dynasty emphasized filial piety, and her glorious future could only be imagined. Even if she and the new monarch didn’t get along under the surface, as long as she was the empress dowager he had to show her respect. Especially since the future empress was her niece.
After around a quarter of an hour, the crown prince and the two ministers walked out. Their expressions were solemn.
Zheng Hai Quan called hoarsely: “Announcing the empress—–”
Empress Xiao stood up. Her eyes were half shut and her expression showed endless grief that she silently endured by herself. She wasn’t a mess of tears like the others. She lowly took a few steps, stumbled a little and then finally couldn’t control her sorrow and ran into the inner hall.
This scene was seen by Luo Jing and the two ministers. Luo Jing’s face remained expressionless but the two ministers revealed a strange look in their eyes.
Empress Xiao sprawled onto the bed and couldn’t speak through her sobs.
“Min’er, how long have you been married to Us?”
“Over, over forty years as of today.”
Emperor Xi revealed an absentminded smile. His shriveled and pale lips moved, seemingly muttering something too quiet for Empress Xiao to clearly hear. He raised his hand and she reluctantly straightened up and sat on the couch.
“Min’er. Have you ever regretted marrying Us?”
Empress Xiao froze, “Never.”
“We….have also never regretted marrying you. You, were Our crown prince consort, as well as Our first and only empress.”
Empress Xiao’s expression showed both sadness and joy as her tears flowed once again.
“Now that We are about to pass away, do you have any reluctance to part?”
“This servant concubine is naturally heartbroken…..”
Emperor Xi revealed a smile filled with hidden meaning.
The hall was silent enough to hear a pin drop. Emperor Xi’s gentle voice suddenly sounded out.
“……We will give you two choices. Either accompany Us in death, or live on without the status of empress dowager…..”
Empress Xiao seemed to be immersed in her grief, and only until Emperor Xi finished speaking did she snap out of it.
Emperor Xi’s haggard face was untouched by emotion as he looked at Empress Xiao’s extremely astonished and slightly aggrieved expression. The heartlessness of a monarch was completely manifested at this moment.
Only now did Empress Xiao understand that even if this person was unable to move due to illness, as long as he wasn’t dead, he was still the emperor of the Grand Xi nation, and would always be above her.
But, just why?
Why did he give her this sort of choice?
It was reasonable for her to become the future empress dowager, why….
Empress Xiao, whose wisdom and foresight weren’t any worse than any man’s, was a complete mess at the moment. She wasn’t even able to figure out why Emperor Xi would do something like this.
Emperor Xi’s feeble yet clear voice sounded out once again. His gaze contained a coldness Empress Xiao had never seen before.
“……what you and the crown prince did, We will let it slide. Now—-give Us your decision…..”
These words finally broke through Empress Xiao’s mental barriers. She didn’t have the confidence to look at her husband. At this moment, all her grief and sorrow had completely vanished without a trace. What was left was absolute astonishment and fear.
Emperor Xi wearily closed his eyes, as though he no longer had any energy left.
“…..We have already passed on this edict posthumously to the ministers. If you accompany Us in death, you will remain Our only empress. If not, the crown prince will give you a deceased emperor’s concubine position and you can live out your days in peace…..”
“Majesty, how could you treat this servant concubine this way? This servant concubine has been married to you for so many years, how could you be so cruel?”
Zheng Hai Quan walked over and helped the slightly hysterical empress to the side.
Emperor Xi lay on the royal bed. His lips moved, his voice extremely faint. Only by leaning in close could some of it be heard.
“……forgive Our selfishness….the Grand Xi cannot allow…..an empress dowager from the Xiao clan, along with an empress from the Xiao clan…..”
An earsplitting wail sounded from the inner hall. The crowd of people hurriedly rushed inside.
They saw Emperor Xi lying on the royal bed, his face at peace. Zheng Hai Quan sobbed soundlessly on the side while Empress Xiao was sprawled out crying further away. It wasn’t clear if she was crying over Emperor Xi or over herself.
Up until the end, she didn’t choose the first option. Death was sometimes very easy, but sometimes it was very hard…..
In the eleventh month of the thirty-fifth year of the Xi Calendar, not far from its thirty-sixth year, the Grand Xi Dynasty’s third monarch, Emperor Xi, passed away within the Violet Imperial Hall. Accompanying him in death was Senior Concubine Xu. Senior Concubine Xu was devoted and righteous, and couldn’t bear to let Emperor Xi head to the afterlife by himself. She was willing to accompany him…..
After holding the late emperor’s funeral and before the white shrouds were taken down, the crown prince’s ascension ceremony was held.
Because it was the mourning period, the succeeding emperor ordered for it to be simplified.
After the ceremony, it was time to write the late emperor’s epitaph and posthumous title. After continuous discussions with the Ministry of Rites, the new emperor proclaimed the epitaph title to be the “sincere virtuous pure filial scholarly mighty worshipful paragon emperor.”
At the same time, the former senior concubine’s posthumous conferral and Empress Xiao’s conferral was written into law.
The former senior concubine loyally accompanied the emperor in death, and everyone was inspired by her devotion in life and death. However, for her to be posthumously awarded the title of empress and buried as the empress together with the former emperor was a little against convention. Especially since it was awkward with the still present previous empress. This was quite a thorny problem for the officials and nobility.
This was a posthumous edict of the former emperor, and so was not conferring Empress Xiao as empress dowager. In light of the former emperor’s prestige, no one raised any objections despite this violating the norm.
After all, this didn’t affect any of them. However, it wasn’t so simple for those who were affected. Everyone in the Jing Duke’s Estate was shocked and spent the entire night deliberating. They started making moves behind the scenes.
The next day a chancellor submitted a petition. Using “proper convention” as the topic, he blabbered on about this and that, falling just shy of calling the former emperor muddled in his old age, and said they shouldn’t just let this slide.
This was Luo Jing’s first challenge as the new monarch. When the former emperor left behind this posthumous edict that day, Luo Jing knew there would be objections. Things turned out as expected.
Luo Jing understood the former emperor’s actions, and the meaning behind them. Ultimately, the former emperor was clearing the road for him, and also for the Grand Xi’s future.
This chancellor’s petition was like pouring water into boiling oil. The court started frothing over. Some chancellors had objections in their hearts to begin with. Now that someone took the lead, they would naturally not let this chance go by.
The court was in chaos, everyone arguing with their own reasoning. As the leaders of the officials, the two ministers actually shrunk back at this moment. They held their jade tablets and stood to the side without saying anything.
Luo Jing sat upright in his throne as he looked below, his face expressionless.
Luo Jing had seen this sort of scene before. Previously in his vassal state, there were often members of the left adjutant’s office who would start arguing within the Hall of Ascension. Of course, the situation back then wasn’t as fierce, and the scope wasn’t as large. But the reasoning was still similar.
All sorts of debate broke out below, spit flying everywhere and people getting more and more emotional. But in reality, they were looking at their new monarch out of the corners of their eyes. This included the two silent ministers, who seemed to be probing him as well.
By probing out their new monarch’s way of doing things and his character, it would be beneficial for their development in future court sessions. Those above would understand the thoughts of those below, so why could those below not occasionally try to analyze the characters of those above?
Therefore, Empress Xiao’s conferral became the first exchange between the new monarch and his officials.
There was someone in court who understood the Jing Emperor’s temperament, and naturally didn’t participate. This person shrunk down and prepared to watch the show.
This person was Guan Zheng. It wasn’t that he understood the Jing Emperor a lot. Instead, he knew that the Jing Emperor had more patience than anyone else. This was something he had learned with three years of his blood and tears.
As expected, by the time those below had started to run out of steam, the person above had yet to move. It was already lunch time and things hadn’t been concluded yet. Some officials inevitably grew panicked.
Another half an hour passed and the Jing Emperor who had been silent this whole time finally spoke.
“Since you all haven’t come to a consensus yet, let’s continue our discussions next time.”
Eunuch Fu called on the side: “Court is adjourned—-”
When this was called, the officials below couldn’t help but let out a breath. They glanced at the Jing Emperor who hadn’t shown any expression from start to finish. Everyone was at a loss.
Using an empress dowager to suppress little Jing and Xiao Hua would make their days very difficult. Furthermore, this empress dowager is much more skilled than Xiao-Shi. Ancient people also valued filial piety….
Therefore, for the sake of little Jing and Xiao Hua’s happiness, we will let old Xi be selfish…..