Yang Nuo became the crown prince’s classmate and his days grew busy.
The Yang family lived on the capital’s outskirts, and he had to take the carriage into the palace before dawn to make it in time for his class with Zhuo’er. He ate lunch at the Chenxi Palace and returned home in the carriage once class was done.
Xiao Hua watched for a few days and felt it was too much work for the child. She called Lin Qing Wan into the palace for a discussion. She proposed letting Yang Nuo live in the palace, which was large and had plenty of space to live in. If that doesn’t work, he could live with Zhuo’er in the Chenxi Palace’s side hall, where she would take care of him so there was no need to worry. He could return home once every few days. This would make things easier on him.
Although Lin Qing Wan was reluctant, she understood the concubine was being considerate. She went back and discussed it with her brother. To avoid harming her son’s future prospects, she agreed in the end.
As for Heng Heng, he was like Yi Yi who loved to play. He could start taking lessons a few years later. When he went into the palace normally, he was just a playmate and didn’t need to be reserved.
Yi Yi was also happier with a playmate.
When Heng Heng was in the palace, she would go frolic about with him everywhere. When he wasn’t there, she would go pester Zhuo’er and Nuo Nuo to play with her. The few children got along quite well.
Of course, children would occasionally get into arguments. But usually Xiao Hua didn’t need to intervene and they would figure things out by themselves. Zhuo’er was a sensible one and Yi Yi also wasn’t someone who would abuse her position. Children forgot things quickly. They could be angry one moment and happily playing together again the next.
Time passed like flowing water. A major event happened in court that caused great waves.
First was Minister Lin’s retirement announcement.
Minister Lin wasn’t actually that old, a little over sixty. Normally, he could still remain in his position for several more years. However, he suddenly announced he was retiring.
After his retirement, the left minister’s position became vacant. In theory, a new minister needed to be chosen. Those who had the qualifications all felt their hearts stirring, but the Jing Emperor didn’t show any signs of planning to choose a new minister.
While this situation was left hanging, the Yun Prince submitted a memorandum that caused another round of waves.
The Yun Prince asked for his vassal state to be stripped.
His explanation was rather absurd, saying there were too many things to deal with in a vassal state, how his taxes couldn’t cover his expenses and how he truly couldn’t hold on any longer. He begged his majesty to take pity and relieve him of his burden, saying how he wanted to be an idle prince and live a carefree life.
Of course, he also said a few righteous words towards the end of the memorandum. He said that vassal princes with too much authority wasn’t good for the peace of the nation, and would be harmful to the dynasty with the Luo surname. For the sake of the Grand Xi, for the sake of the Luo royal family, he chose to sacrifice himself for everyone’s benefit.
This stone caused countless of ripples, and stunned all the officials and nobles.
The Jing Emperor had someone read this inappropriate memorandum out loud in court, and asked all the officials for their opinions.
The officials looked at each other and no one dared to make a sound.
Having had several exchanges with the Jing Emperor, they all knew he was no pushover. Although he spoke little and remained silent most of the time, he never slacked in his duties. Unconsciously, many officials’ opinions were changed, and they inexplicably felt a sense of natural respect.
This included Minister Lin’s retirement. The court felt that it was due to the Jing Emperor being dissatisfied with him that he was forced to do so. But on the surface, the Jing Emperor didn’t seem to have made any moves. They only knew that this towering minister who had stood through three reigns had fallen just like that, fallen without any sound.
Since even an old official like Minister Lin had fallen, no one dared to make the Jing Emperor unhappy. It was better to first see if his majesty agreed or not.
The officials exchanged glances and looked towards Minister Xu.
The old man stood on the left, his hands holding the jade tablet, and looked as steady as Mt. Tai. Although he wasn’t a tall person, he gave off a towering presence.
The silence continued.
The officials knew the person above them had a lot of patience, and naturally didn’t feel like dragging it out.
At this time, an official stepped out from the back and after saluting said: “Majesty, this servant feels his highness the Yun Prince is truly righteous, and is a pillar of our society….”
This official went on and on in praise of the Yun Prince.
After he finished, he returned to his original spot.
The Jing Emperor didn’t reveal any expression, but he nodded his head.
Seeing the Jing Emperor’s reaction, several officials naturally followed after and started praising the Yun Prince as well. After a few rounds of this, the intelligent people had already understood the Jing Emperor’s meaning.
By praising the Yun Prince, wasn’t it saying his actions were extremely correct? It turns out his majesty wanted to abolish his vassal state.
But this matter didn’t have much to do with the officials. After all, the one being stripped of his position was one of the Luo family, and had nothing to do with their own benefits. Since his majesty wanted to do it, those under him agreed one after the other.
The Jing Emperor didn’t give a response during court, but three days later passed an edict accepting the Yun Prince’s memorandum.
He also generously bestowed rewards onto the Yun Prince. Not only did he renovate and expand the Yun Prince Estate within the capital, he also increased the prince’s salary from ten thousand grain to twelve thousand. He also preserved the Yun Province and the Yun vassal state, and merely withdrew the militia and authority. The vassal prince still had the choice of living in his vassal state, but could also choose to return to the capital.
He then personally invited the Yun Prince back to the capital, showing extremely favorable treatment.
Then, that was it.
Everyone had guessed that the Jing Emperor was preparing to make a move against vassal princes, but realized he didn’t take any further actions. It was as if the Yun Prince’s request this time was just a farce, a joke played out by the Yun Prince who had never been impressive.
As time went by, many people forget about this event. But there were others who didn’t dare lower their guard.
The first was naturally the Qi Prince.
His conspiracy with the Jin Prince was the turning point of his life. It was impossible for him not to have any designs on the throne himself back then, but he realized he wasn’t as capable as his older brother, and willingly became his helper instead.
Unfortunately, things had failed, the Jin Prince perished and he himself lost an arm and was confined afterwards. His mother concubine accompanied his father to the grave. He understood his mother concubine’s actions very well. It was to seek a path of survival for him, and for the Xu family.
As expected, his mother concubine’s loyalty towards the former emperor resulted in the Chengen Marquis Estate’s restrictions being lifted and he himself was left unharmed, merely confined within his prince’s estate. In contrast, the people in his wife’s family, the Chengguo Duke’s Estate, were all either banished or beheaded.
After so many events and having been confined for two years, the Qi Prince had long since given up on his original intentions. Now he only wanted to pass his days peacefully. However, the Yun Prince’s move this time spawned many waves in his heart.
The Yun Prince was a crafty one. The Qi Prince had been able to realize this after so many years. The Yun Prince and the Jing Emperor had a good relationship. Why it was good, the Qi Prince didn’t know but he had some guesses.
To say the Yun Prince’s move had no reason behind it, the Qi Prince definitely wouldn’t believe it.
Perhaps, he should learn to be like the Yun Prince?
The Qi Prince pondered over this question for a long time….
Of course, there was another person, or rather, another family, who didn’t dare to lower their guard.
That was the Xiao clan.
After the eldest lord was stripped of his office, the Xiao clan had been very quiet. The lively Jing Duke Estate of the past seemed to have been watered down overnight.
Actually they hadn’t been watered down. According to themselves, they were merely biding their time and gathering their strength.
Were they really gathering their strength?
Such thoughts left a bitter aftertaste.
The more they experienced the Jing Emperor’s methods, the more bitter the Xiao clan felt in their hearts. This person was truly too sinister, and knew how to stab them with blunt knives in the dark.
Although he didn’t reveal anything on the surface, he used all sorts of methods secretly to grind away at the Xiao clan’s power. Without mentioning anything else, the Xiao clan even had trouble entering the palace to meet the royal concubine now.
According to the royal concubine’s message, despite living a life of luxury, she felt extremely sullen.
To make a woman who had lasted decades within the palace say such words, it was clear how skilled the Jing Emperor was. This man was truly hard to figure out. He made no mistakes in the front court, and also didn’t let go of the rear court.
At this rate, how was the Xiao clan supposed to accomplish anything great?
In the past, the Xiao clan could have said they were biding their time without any hesitation. Now, these words sounded more like they were comforting themselves.
However, they still had hope. The Xiao clan still had one final trump card.
Out of the former crown prince’s few sons, one of them had been conferred a prince. The other two were both regional princes. However, he was still young and wouldn’t be given his vassal state yet. Instead, he lived in his own prince’s estate within the capital.
This was the Jing Duke’s great-grandson, and the royal concubine’s own grandson. He was surnamed Luo, and was a tried and true child of the royal line. This meant he was filled with limitless possibilities.
That’s right, limitless possibilities. However, this “limitless possibilities” was currently being besieged by the Jing Emperor, and seemed to be in imminent danger.
The Xiao clan was no longer able to manipulate officials in court and have them make a fuss. No one was a fool, and everyone gradually distanced themselves from the Jing Duke Estate. The Xiao clan did have a few people under them, but they were reluctant to use them. Having gotten accustomed to being able to summon winds and rain, it was very hard for them to accept their current poverty.
But even if it was hard to accept, they had no choice but to do so. Especially since the Jing Emperor didn’t seem to be planning on dealing with them, leaving them a bit of hope.
The Grand Xi didn’t have the boiling frog metaphor, but this was exactly what the Jing Emperor was currently doing. As the frog in the metaphor, the Xiao clan didn’t realize they were slowly being cooked alive.
The Xiao clan wanted to burn incense and pray daily that this event was truly the Yun Prince messing around and that the Jing Emperor had no intention of removing the vassal states.
Another year passed, and the Grand Xi had been peaceful and prosperous. The Jing Emperor seemed to have done many things, but also seemed to have done nothing at all.
In the second year of the Splendid Era, another vassal prince submitted a memorandum. The Qi Prince’s memorandum also requested for his vassal state to be stripped, and his words were similar to the Yun Prince.
As though following the useless Yun Prince’s example, the Qi Prince who had a ruthless violent temper in the past also seemed to have become useless.
The Jing Emperor was pleased when he read it and accepted the memorandum.
Compared to the Yun Prince’s treatment, the Qi Prince was given even better rewards. However, the Qi Prince didn’t choose to follow the Yun Prince’s example and move to the capital. Instead, he remained in his vassal state.
With two vassal princes doing the same in succession, the other vassal princes from the former emperor’s generation all started to panic. Some were discreet while others were not.
However, all this wasn’t important anymore. At the start of the New Year, the Jing Emperor made his move. Various imperial censors started submitting memorandums impeaching vassal princes for misconduct.
These vassal princes had all gotten accustomed to their easy life, and all had problems that could be picked out. The Jing Emperor released an edict stripping a couple of the most outrageous ones, and the rest all became even better behaved. What happened next didn’t need to be said. The Grand Xi’s vassal state system which had lasted for three reigns was ended under the Jing Emperor.
The stirrings in court was rather large, and Xiao Hua had also heard about it. Only now did she realize what the Yun Prince had meant back at his farewell banquet.
“Fourth brother is a smart one.”
The Jing Emperor had never called the Yun Prince fourth brother to his face, but he would call him this when discussing him with Xiao Hua in private. Xiao Hua knew that men could be awkward, and didn’t bring this up in front of the Yun Consort. This was to preserve the men’s dignity a little.
“He helped Us a lot….”
“It’s fine as long as majesty keeps it in mind….”
“We naturally will remember.”
“Right, I heard Yan’er say that she and the Yun Prince are taking their children overseas for a trip.” Xiao Hua’s face was filled with curiosity. She asked the Jing Emperor, “Majesty, what is the ocean like? Have you seen it? Where do you think the Yun Prince’s family will go?”
The Jing Emperor shook his head. He had never seen the ocean before.
The Grand Xi had a lot of territory that bordered the ocean, but as the owner of the lands, he had never gone. Suddenly he felt jealous of that man who could go wherever he pleased.
He understood a little of what the Yun Prince had been up to these past couple years. He only realized now that the Yun Prince’s business had grown very large, and had even started working with seafaring merchants.
It was said he was preparing to take his wife and children to visit the country of these sailors.
He felt even more jealous. When would he be able to take his own wife and children for a trip?
Suddenly, the Yun Prince’s words rang through his mind—-
“…..I told you that being the emperor is the hardest thing in the world. It requires someone born in the year of the bull to do….”
The Jing Emperor was extremely aggrieved. He grabbed Xiao Hua’s hand and said: “Wait until our Zhuo’er has grown up. We will take you out for a trip….”
Xiao Hua was stunned. How did it get to this topic?
She thought back to their conversation and then smiled: “Alright, then majesty has to remember it.”
“The monarch keeps his word!”