Long chapter. Spoilers in author’s notes.
Luo Huai Yuan had been making too many little moves recently, and it was inevitably noticed by Yan Yan.
There were many things he no longer kept from her. Although she didn’t ask in detail, she had a general idea of what her man was thinking.
Yan Yan truly couldn’t figure out why Luo Huai Yuan would want to put effort into the Jing Province. On the surface, the Jing Prince had no advantages whatsoever.
However, she truly didn’t understand the matters of the court. She only saw a few clues from the fact that the Zhenguo Duke Estate became more and more low-key. Another matter was Yan Mo.
Yan Mo had passed the provincial-level examination two years ago. However, he didn’t go for the next exam in one go. Instead, he remained quiet and stayed at home. He would occasionally exchange some verses with a few of his friends. Recently, he suddenly decided to go on a trip. In his letter to Yan Yan, he said he was going to the Fu Province for a stroll, treating it as a learning trip.
The Shen household truly had too many people who liked to go on learning trips. Luo Huai Yuan’s explanation for Yan Mo not taking the next exam when he could’ve was simply that it wasn’t the right time.
Just when was the right time? No one knows.
Yan Yan was naturally upset about this but Luo Huai Yuan comforted her by saying it was only a few years.
Knowing that her brother was leaving the capital after the New Year, Yan Yan was very concerned. Just the letters from her alone were a huge stack, let alone all sorts of food, drink, toys and useful items. Along with the New Year’s gifts for the Zhenguo Duke Estate and Shen Yi Yao, several large carriages were sent to the capital.
Luo Huai Yuan didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He told Yan Yan she didn’t need to worry. Shen Qi, Shen Xuan and Shen He were all over by the Fu Province. Yan Mo would be fine even if he walked sideways there. Wasn’t it a little laughable sending him so many things? Of course, there was some jealousy involved. When he had left back then, his wife hadn’t been so worried about him.
Yan Yan couldn’t be bothered to argue with him. Was that the same thing? Luo Huai Yuan had gone to the Fu Province when he was twelve, during the pirate invasions. Not only did he return unharmed, he even made the biggest sum of money he ever had in his life. Yan Mo couldn’t be compared to him. In Yan Yan’s mind, Ah Mo was still that weak little brother who needed to be protected.
Hearing this, Luo Huai Yuan rolled his eyes several times.
What a worrywart! Was Yan Mo a weakling who needed to be looked after? Fine, it did seem to be the case on the surface. However, Luo Huai Yuan who had put a lot of effort on Yan Mo over the years knew that his brother-in-law was quite the two-face. Therefore, a person’s appearance was sometimes an advantage. Having an innocent and weak appearance was also a sort of advantage.
Yan Mo who was in the distant capital naturally didn’t sense Luo Huai Yuan’s grumbling.
He was currently having a headache. Ever since he said he wanted to go on a trip, even though he had chosen the Fu Province which his mom felt was the safest, it still didn’t alleviate her worries.
After Shen Yi Yao got remarried, Yan Mo alternated between staying at the Qi Estate and the Zhenguo Duke Estate, though he spent most of his time in the latter. After he brought the matter up, Shen Yi Yao forcibly brought him back to the Qi Estate and smothered him with motherly love daily. She fussed over him and worried until Yan Mo almost went crazy.
Yan Mo couldn’t handle his own mom and could only ask his stepdad Qi Ran for help. Luckily the two of them were good partners from before. With Yan Mo’s explanations and Qi Ran’s comforting, they gradually reduced Shen Yi Yao’s worries.
The New Year arrived in the blink of an eye.
The year’s end was always when the Jin Prince was in the spotlight. This was because Emperor Xi’s health hadn’t been good for the past six months. The Jin Prince took advantage of his vassal state’s close proximity to show his filial piety every few days. There were all sorts of rare treasures, exotic delicacies and precious medicines being sent to the capital. The procession of carriages were dazzling.
Favor for favor. With such a filial son, Emperor Xi naturally had to give him some face. He frequently summoned the Jin Prince back to the capital. The amount of times astonished everyone and unsettled the crown prince’s faction.
Luckily Luo Huai Yuan was in the distant Yun Province. The things happening in the capital was extremely far from him. He only had to watch and do what he had to do. He also had his precious wife and children. Being with his family was ultimately a blessing. Why should he be jealous of others teasing dogs?
However, Emperor Xi’s actions recently were truly puzzling. Luo Huai Yuan couldn’t figure it out. The situation at hand seemd to gradually be spiraling out of control. Could his cheap dad have finally made up his mind and chosen to follow his heart?
Truthfully speaking, overlooking the Jin Prince’s dark side, he truly seemed to be more a suitable successor compared to the crown prince. Due to having limited ability in his past life, Luo Huai Yuan didn’t really know the details of how the Jin Prince ended up ascending the throne. However, from what he knew of the situation back then, Emperor Xi had suddenly passed away. The crown prince was about to succeed the throne and the vassal princes were summoned back for the funeral. The Yun Prince and the Jing Prince’s notices were however delayed.
By the time the two had received the news and prepared to head to the capital for the funeral, the victor had already been decided. The crown prince was accused of plotting his father’s death. The Jin Prince happened to be in the capital and ended up taking his place.
Of course, this was the publicized version. What the truth really was, no one knew. Probably only the crown prince’s faction and the Jin Prince’s faction knew.
Luo Huai Yuan had discovered quite a few of the Jing Province’s secrets. However, he seemed to have started playing hide and seek with the Jing Prince.
As Luo Huai Yuan’s trusted aide and bodyguard, Li Wei felt deep sympathy for the Jing Prince.
Just how had he provoked this person who had no bottom line!?
Li Wei had followed Luo Huai Yuan for a long time. He naturally understood his master’s personality. What should have been an extremely serious matter ended up becoming not so serious in his hands. Furthermore, it wasn’t possible to point out what he was doing wrong. Just like how Luo Huai Yuan righteously said that his actions were merely to test out that person’s character.
Fine, the Jing Prince had always been an invisible person. He was that way in the palace and now also in his vassal state. He was the same as the Yun Prince: extremely not favored by Emperor Xi. After leaving the capital, they didn’t receive any bestowals let alone summons back to the capital. This person was both low-key and taciturn. On the surface, he seemed to be inarticulate and suppressed. The only thing that stood out about him was that he worked extremely hard.
Truly, extremely hard. Li Wei thought that if his master worked so hard, he wouldn’t have to work with others. Instead, he could directly go overturn the crown prince and the Jin Prince.
Unfortunately, he ended up with an unambitious master.
The Jing Prince was truly nothing to write home about. He had no interests or hobbies so his character was truly hard to figure out. However, was it truly possible to figure out his character with such methods? Li Wei was doubtful.
While Luo Huai Yuan was enjoying himself, the people in the Jing Province were almost tormented to death.
Some weirdo seemed to have it out for them recently.
Ever since the Jing Prince reincarnated, he had decided not to tread the same path of failure.
He had pondered for a long time and did some self-reflection. He realized he wasn’t more outstanding in any way. Just like in his past life, his vassal state was desolate and no one in the capital cared about him. His impoverished situation was exacerbated by the internal affairs department who delayed his salary. A grand prince like him wasn’t even doing as well as a minor official.
Luckily, with the experience of his past life, the Jing Prince was used to this situation. He had already suffered the worst things, and had even died. What was there to fear?
Afterwards, when Luo Huai Yuan and the Jing Prince got together, he would mock him for being an industrious little bee. Luo Jing hadn’t understood that he was being teased. In his experience, he was truly industrious. Since there were no shortcuts available to him, he could only do things one step at a time. He slowly accumulated little things into major things and accumulated grains of sand into a tower.
Since his vassal state was barren, he did his best to develop their regional specialties. His coin pouch was empty so he expanded his thoughts and ordered his subordinates to do business and earn money.
Luo Jing had a bitter childhood. As a mute, he was someone without any experience in worldly affairs. Towards many things like governing, handling affairs, interacting with subordinates, he was a blank slate. He didn’t have Luo Huai Yuan’s smarts, wisdom and crooked ideas. He could only build himself up a little at a time, painting the blank slate with little bits of color.
He abandoned all distracting thoughts. All his actions were for the sake of one thing: to grow stronger.
To continuously grow stronger.
To grow stronger until he no longer had to tread the same path as his past life.
This sort of person was actually quite frightening. His perseverance and determination was stronger than ordinary people. Furthermore, he was sufficiently focused. He was able to blindly persevere. Despite knowing his actions may be fruitless and despite seeing no hope, he could bury his head and do things bit by bit. Until one day when he would overturn those tall mountains.
A vassal prince’s advantage was that the vassal state belonged to him. Although there were some resctrictions, it was possible to avoid them and do his own thing.
Now that he had those thoughts, he needed two things: money and manpower. Money meant having enough to support all his operations. Manpower could be referring to a network or also to military power.
Why was the crown prince so afraid of the Jin Prince’s facton? It was because the Jin Province and Qi Province had powerful troops. Although those troops were deployed by the court on the surface, even if their commanders hadn’t been bought, it wasn’t difficult to train some private troops in hidden locations.
It was common knowledge that any vassal prince who had designs would do such things. This included the Jing Prince.
The Jing Province had several places that were deserted. The Jing Prince’s private troops were hidden in these places. Unfortunately, they had been getting harassed recently. Those actions were vile and essentially raised their hackles.
The other party didn’t do anything apart from sending some really lousy spies who frequently appeared in the area looking suspicious. Since those places were secret training grounds for private troops, they naturally couldn’t let oustiders discover them. They captured each one as they came.
These spies were clumsy and their skills weren’t up to par. Furthermore, they lacked the basic quality spies should have.
What was the basic requirement for a spy?
It was not to get captured. Even if they were captured, they couldn’t reveal any information. Many spies would commit suicide upon capture to keep their secrets.
However, these spies were extremely bad and seemed extremely afraid of death. They didn’t even need to torture them before they confessed everything and gave up their master.
They all claimed the same person as their master: the Yun Prince.
Could they be framing him?
This answer was too simple and made people suspicious.
Because this involved the Yun Prince, they didn’t dare make any decisions and reported it upwards.
When the news was received by the Jing Prince, he remained silent for a long time.
“Wait and see.” This was his response.
Two very patient people thus started playing a game. One didn’t grow tired of sending inferior spies to test the other’s bottom line. The other remained unmoving like a mountain and didn’t show any reactions on the surface. In reality, he had ordered his subordinates to calmly relocate.
There wasn’t any point in prolonging this sort of game. Soon, the Yun Province sent over a signal asking for a meeting.
What was this meeting for?
Actually, the Yun Prince had given some clear signs. He was saying “I know what you are doing. I’ve seen everything.” He was also saying “I have no ill intentions.”
Since this was the case, the meeting definitely had to do with this matter.
Although the Jing Prince was steady, his weakness had already been seized. Therefore, he wasn’t able to refuse this meeting request. Furthermore, he also wanted to figure out the other party’s inentions.
It was absolutely necessary to meet. However, where should they meet?
One was in the Jing Province and the other in the Yun Province. Although they were neighbors, they were ultimately in different regions. Vassal princes weren’t allowed to leave their vassal states without an imperial edict. They were also prohibited from meeting each other in private. Although they all abided by this on the surface, only they knew if this was truly the case.
However, since the two of them had no prior interactions, how could they trust each other?
As the passive party, the Jing Prince’s aide and advisor recommended not to take any risks. Because the Yun Prince’s intent was unclear, no one knew if he had malicious intentions.
On the other side, Yan Yan also strongly requested Luo Huai Yuan not to head to the Jing Province. Who knew whether that was a wolves’ den!?
There’s no knowing what’s in people’s hearts. If the other party retaliated maliciously, their family would be damned. Luo Huai Yuan comforted her by saying old fifth wouldn’t do that kind of thing. Yan Yan asked him why not and he wasn’t able to answer. It wasn’t like he could say they had known each other as children. That old fifth had been a little sheep in his past life. Although the sheep had evolved in this life, it wouldn’t be possible to change that much. Since he was the one with the request, he had to show the required sincerity.
The cooperation would just be the beginning. There was still a bunch of things to do afterwards. If old fifth really succeeded the throne, how they would get along was also another question. Since they were going to make the effort, might as well do so from the very beginning. Why be so petty and incur the other party’s loathing?
It’s just that when women started splitting hairs, it was often impossible to reason with them. Especially since Yan Yan’s nerves were stretched thin due to Yan Mo leaving the capital. This sort of subconscious worry accumulated bit by bit. Even if she couldn’t see the clues, she could still feel the seriousness.
Without any other choice, Luo Huai Yuan could only do his own thing.
He agreed to meet within the Jing Province, but right next to the Yun Province’s border.
The meeting proceeded extremely smoothly.
Luo Huai Yuan was extremely shameless and immediately expressed his desire to cooperate. The Jing Prince thus let go of the doubts in his heart.
Actually, it wasn’t much of a stretch. Their circumstances were the same. They had struggled to survive from a young age and had a good understanding of each other’s thoughts. It was all for the sake of survival.
After the meeting, they each hurried back to their own place.
Since Luo Huai Yuan had crossed the border, he was naturally a little further away. Galloping back swiftly still took two or three days. Prior to leaving he had made all the arrangements. He didn’t know if he succeeded in keeping it from Yan Yan. Luo Huai Yuan didn’t intentionally trick her, but since he couldn’t convince her and still had to do it, he could only go ahead and then ask for forgiveness later.
As expected, there was a storm waiting for him back home. Luckily Luo Huai Yuan knew how to placate Yan Yan and the couple didn’t have a falling out. Yan Yan was also just worried. Seeing her husband return safely, she merely vented the terror she felt.
Having succeeded in establishing their partnership, they had to consider how to proceed.
Based on Luo Huai Yuan’s character, he would naturally throw everything that was useful in his hands over to the Jing Prince and then become idle. However, although this sounded nice in theory, he needed to be cautious.
After a few exchanges, both sides had revealed some of their cards.
Luo Huai Yuan slowly handed the information he had on the Jin Province and Qi Province to the Jing Prince. These were all things he needed. In exchange, the Jing Prince told Luo Huai Yuan the biggest secret he held: Emperor Xi didn’t have much time left.
Luo Huai Yuan was very startled at hearing this news. This was because based on his past life, Emperor Xi would only pass away four years later. However, this would explain why the Jin Prince was frequently returning to the capital. In his past life, he had done the same prior to Emperor Xi’s death, and used all sorts of excuses to remain in the capital.
The Jing Prince gave a rough estimate of how much time Emperor Xi had left. It was around two years.
The Jing Prince didn’t mention how he knew this and Luo Huai Yuan didn’t ask. They each had their own aces up their sleeves.
However, due to this matter, Luo Huai Yuan became more confident in the Jing Prince. He handed over all the hidden threads he had set up in the capital.
Emperor Xi’s health had long since been on the decline. His fainting in court back then was just the beginning.
In everyone’s minds, there had been quite a long period of time when Emperor Xi was obsessed with pills of immortality. However, everyone seemed to have forgotten that this was an even more popular trend during the previous emperor’s time.
Perhaps for the sake of currying favor with the previous emperor or perhaps because he wanted to to become an immortal himself, concocting those pills was all the rage back then. The way of the dao had surpassed Buddhism in popularity.
The previous emperor’s health had never been good. Being a monarch was taxing on one’s health. Since ancient times, there were many emperors who tried to extend their lifespan. Many of them became obsessed with concocting pills. Due to his poor health, the previous emperor was expecially interested in such things. There were many alchemists in the palace who were responsible for concocting pills.
During this time, Emperor Xi was still the crown prince. Because the empress dowager was biased towards his brothers, he was afraid his position wasn’t stable. At the time, Emperor Xi had put quite a lot of effort on the previous emperor. For example, he would find time to accompany him in listening to the art of pill concoction. The previous emperor naturally bestowed many such pills to him and the young Emperor Xi naturally swallowed them all.
The reason Emperor Xi could remain steadily as the crown prince was because the previous emperor cherished him. Everyone had their biases and Emperor Xi had adapted himself to suit the former emperor’s tastes. The former emperor naturally favored his eldest son.
This won’t be mentioned for now. After the previous emperor’s death, Emperor Xi finally ascended the throne after some twists and turns.
In theory, he should have driven out the alchemists and purged the palace of those unorthodox ways. For some reason, perhaps it was his preference or perhaps those pills really had some magical effects without any visible drawbacks, Emperor Xi continued taking the pills. It wasn’t as extreme as during the previous emperor’s time but everyone in the palace knew this habit of his.
Emperor Xi wasn’t aware that those pills were actually harmful.
At that time, he was in a difficult spot. Things weren’t stable in court and the empress dowager frequently made things difficult for him. His two brothers didn’t know their place and there were too many things he had to do. People all had times when they had insufficient energy, but taking those pills actually helped him focus.
By the time he got rid of all the obstacles, he finally discovered his royal body had some abnormalities. However, it was already too late. Emperor Xi’s body was filled with large amounts of pill poison.
He got rid of the pills and drove out the alchemists. Emperor Xi was suddenly no longer interested in the art of pill refinement.
Of course this was just what it seemed on the surface. In private, he had sought many doctors to help treat his body. However, the harm was already done. Due to overexposure to those pills, Emperor Xi’s body had long since become a husk. The reason he could last so long was due to the imperial physicians’ meticulous treatments and careful nursing.
His fainting in court that time was due to the suppressed issues suddenly flaring up. Although it was suppressed once again, Emperor Xi knew he didn’t have long to live. The imperial physician’s also concluded that there were only a few years left.
Emperor Xi didn’t show much of a reaction but had quite a lot of imperial physicians killed after the matter. Those who knew about his situation were all slaughtered, leaving only a single taciturn yet sklled imperial physician: Imperial Physician Zhou.
The problem with his health was thus kept secret.
He thought he could keep everything under control. How could he know that the sons he had always spurned weren’t simple? The hidden struggle for the throne was something that had become unstoppable the moment his health was in question.
This author is reaping what I sowed. Because this novel is linked to the last novel with the matters of seizing the throne, the Jin Prince’s defeat and old fifth ascending etc.
This author has to calculate the timing and plot on that side while also writing the plot on this side. Not only does everyone need to know what has happened, the story line cannot be repeated. What a headache. I promise I definitely won’t do something like this next time. It’s completely making problems for myself.