Super long chapter. Final regular chapter of the week will be released later today.
Within the eastern palace, the crown prince heard that the imperial tutor was asking for an audience and bid him enter.
The moment Imperial Tutor Bai entered, he asked in an urgent voice: “Crown prince, you submitted a memorandum to reduce the vassal princes’ military authority?” Before the sound of his voice faded, he spoke again: “What a muddleheaded move! How did you come by such a notion?”
The old man appeared aggrieved and bitter.
The crown prince’s imperial tutor Bai Zhong Zhu was already sixty-seven this year. He was a virtuous and reputable person, and also extremely knowledgeable. Since he had taught the crown prince from a young age, he never refrained from telling him the truth as he saw it.
Imperial Tutor Bai spoke quite frankly, but Crown Prince Luo Zhao was a young man after all. It was one thing to be scolded by this old man as a child, but now that he was already over thirty years old, being scolded as a child would inevitably make him feel extremely annoyed.
The crown prince’s initial smile instantly slid off, and an inexplicable flame rose in his heart. But since this imperial tutor was conferred by his royal father, he wasn’t foolish enough to disrespect his teacher. He could only force himself to maintain his smile and say: “Why does imperial tutor say so?”
Although he said this, the crown prince was extremely disapproving in his heart.
The Grand Xi Dynasty’s feudal system was extremely lenient towards the vassal princes. But how could the crown prince be willing to let others snore beside him on his narrow bed? It was like having a blade to his back.
The current emperor had five princes who were of age. The eldest son of the principal wife was conferred the crown prince title and remained inside the capital. The other four were sent off to various vassal states. The second prince Luo Jin was conferred the title of Jin Prince and sent to the Jin Province. The third prince Luo Qi was conferred as the Qi Prince and sent to the Qi Province. The fourth prince Luo Huai Yuan was conferred as the Yun Prince and given the Yun Province. The fifth prince Luo Jing was conferred as the Jing Prince and sent to the Jing Province.1
Out of the princes, the Jin Prince and the Qi Prince were birthed by Senior Concubine Xu and were brothers by blood. Senior Concubine Xu had been favored for several decades, and her sons were both well regarded. Not only were their vassal states the most fertile, they even repeatedly received various bestowals, making the show of favoritism extremely clear.
While the crown prince’s memorandum was in regards to all the vassal princes, it was merely his scheme against the Jin Prince and the Qi Prince.
Imperial Tutor Bai was already old after all, and having hurried over the entire way he had already been huffing and puffing. After catching his breath, he said: “It’s taboo, taboo, understand? You’ve already been the crown prince for around twenty years. You are the eldest and born of the principal wife. Being the crown prince is as expected, and you will become the emperor in the future. Why would you make things difficult for these small vassal princes at this time? I know that crown prince feels restless with the Jin Prince and the Qi Prince watching daily like tigers watching their prey. But the vassal princes can currently only mobilize their honor guard troops without approval from the imperial court, and those number less than ten thousand. The regional militia and the guards appointed by the court are all overseen by the commander. What need is there to worry?”
Without waiting for the crown prince to speak, he continued: “His majesty fainted inside the royal court several days ago. Just as he got better, you submitted this memorandum requesting to reduce the vassal princes’ military authority. Have you considered what his majesty would think?”
The crown prince could no longer maintain his expression at this time.
“Imperial Tutor Bai, are you not overthinking things? This humble one is the crown prince, and royal father is this humble one’s royal father. Can I not even submit a request? Isn’t it just a few lowly vassal princes? There’s no need to make such a big deal out of it.”
“It’s precisely because they are just lowly vassal princes that you cannot submit such a request. Don’t forget, they aren’t just vassal princes, they are also your brothers—”
Before he could finish, he was interrupted by the crown prince, “It’s better if imperial tutor doesn’t think of this humble one on the same level as them. This humble one still has some matters to take care of. Imperial tutor, please take your leave.”
Imperial Tutor Bai still wanted to say something, but Eunuch Chen Qi came over, bowed, and gestured for the guest to leave.
“Honored imperial tutor, please—”
Imperial Tutor Bai could only leave helplessly.
This crown prince was becoming more and more unwilling to listen to advice. In the past he was still willing to listen to a word or two, but as of now he was more stubborn and arrogant. He needed to keep in mind that until he sat on the throne, the outcome was still uncertain.
After Imperial Tutor Bai left, the crown prince sat behind the desk. The more he thought about the damn old man’s words, the more annoyed he felt. He inadvertently started complaining to Chen Qi who was standing on the side.
“Sometimes this humble prince wonders whether this imperial tutor is this humble prince’s tutor, or whether he belongs to those two good brothers of mine.”
Chen Qi was around thirty years old, his face pale and hairless. He wore a sunflower embroidered collared gown. Hearing the crown prince speak, he half bent his waist and replied vaguely: “The imperial tutor is probably overly concerned with highness’s reasons. He is quite old after all.”
That’s true now that he thought about it. It was rare for people to reach seventy. The imperial tutor was almost seventy already, no wonder he was so fussy every day. He was also more and more muddleheaded.
“Then do you also feel this humble prince made a mistake, and is very muddleheaded?”
It seemed like Imperial Tutor Bai’s words had still left an impression on the crown prince. He just wanted to maintain his image, but was still nervous in private. This was the reason he started speaking to the person next to him about it on this rare occasion.
The crown prince didn’t expect Chen Qi to respond. After all, he was just a eunuch. What could a rootless person know?
Unexpectedly, Chen Qi pondered seriously for a while before responding: “This servant also feels the imperial tutor his being a little alarmist. After all, highness is the crown prince who is beneath one person and above ten thousand others. Submitting a memorandum to reduce the vassal princes’ military authority is perfectly reasonable.” After a pause, he hesitantly said: “Especially since his majesty is already old. Highness having such thoughts is also normal. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
After speaking, Chen Qi’s face suddenly turned pale, and he knelt to the ground with a thud, saying fearfully: “This servant accidentally let his tongue slip. Please have mercy, crown prince.”
The crown prince waved his hand, “Get up. This humble one asked you the question, you are not guilty of any crime.”
Chen Qi was a eunuch who had only in the last few years emerged at the crown prince’s side. Eunuchs often entered the palace at a young age, and wouldn’t have had much of an education. Yet this Chen Qi was rather cultured, and was also extremely sharp. He would often make suggestions that happened to agree with the crown prince’s own views. The crown prince grew fond of him, and raised him to serve at his side. As of today he was one of the people the crown prince relied on a little. When the crown prince encountered some problems, he would occasionally talk about a few things with him.
Chen Qi stood up and said: “The imperial tutor advocates caution. However, the current state of things is being glared at like prey by tigers. Highness crown prince is currently only reacting to things as they happen. Using this memorandum to figure out his majesty’s thoughts at least makes it possible to make some preparations.”
The crown prince had already felt Chen Qi’s initial words aligned with his own thoughts. But what he said afterwards made his thoughts light up repeatedly and made him sit up and take notice. Cheng Qi this castrate being able to think so deeply naturally amazed the crown prince and made him very appreciative.
Because of the crown prince’s memorandum, the court was currently in turmoil. Some people were in support of it, and others were opposed. These days the military and civil officials had gotten into several arguments in court.
Everyone had their own views and reasoning. Those in favor said the vassal princes were becoming more and more unrestrained, and a well-trained and powerful army in their hands presented a threat to imperial power. It was only reasonable to reduce their authority. Those opposed to it clung onto the rules laid down by the ancestors. Although vassal princes had the regional militia, they only obeyed the imperial court’s deployment orders. There was no need to overlook and overdo things. Not to mention the creation of the vassal states were precisely to preserve familial relationships……
Then, Emperor Xi also made his reaction to the memorandum known.
The crown prince received the ruling on the court notice that stated the large words “lacking in brotherly affection”.
Although he had been mentally prepared, the crown prince was unavoidably extremely astonished and extremely angry.
He was astonished that his royal father placed a lot of emphasis on those two lowly people after all. He was angry at Emperor Xi for only placing emphasis on those two lowly people, and not noticing what they were doing in the privacy of their vassal states.
Actually the crown prince had only submitted the memorandum out of helplessness. He already had several subordinates submit court notices regarding the Jin Prince and the Qi Prince’s irregular movements in their vassal states. However, he didn’t have concrete evidence. But discerning people could see at a glance that as long as someone was sent to investigate, there would be results. However, Emperor Xi always turned a deaf ear, and even dealt with the officials that submitted these court notices. The crown prince, in his helplessness, was forced to act himself and submit a memorandum.
Unfortunately the result was extremely heartbreaking. At least, the crown prince was heartbroken.
In his rage, he smashed everything in the study. After smashing, he even lifted his leg to stomp down a few times for good measure. Upon seeing this, Chen Qi immediately pounced over and held his leg fast, crying “highness this won’t do”, and completely disregarded his own knees which were slashed by the broken porcelain and drenched with blood.
After the crown prince calmed down, he felt that this servant protected his master wholeheartedly after seeing Chen Qi’s state. Once his anger faded, he called for someone to apply medicine for Chen Qi.
Unexpectedly, Chen Qi continuously shook his head, “Highness, this servant’s body is lowly, no need for highness to worry about it.”
“Complete nonsense. No matter how you put it, you got hurt because of this humble one. Treating your injuries isn’t a big deal!”
Chen Qi hesitated over and over before saying: “Highness, the current situation is different from usual. His majesty has just sent you a rejection notice, and everyone’s attention is focused over here. We cannot let anyone know what happened in this study. Otherwise, if his majesty hears about it, he would think you are dissatisfied with him. This lowly servant’s wounds can be taken care of by himself back home.”
The crown prince also understood this reasoning, and didn’t express anything as he let Chen Qi take his leave. However, he inevitably viewed Chen Qi a few times more favorably.
At this moment, Empress Xiao also secretly sent someone over to relay a message. It was just five words: “close the doors and reflect”.
At this time, the eastern palace shut its doors tightly. The crown prince actually shut himself in to reflect.
Right at noon, Empress Xiao had her personal palace maid tidy up her appearance before hurrying over to the Violet Imperial Hall.
Outside the gates of the Violet Imperial Hall, she ran into Senior Concubine Xu who had come out after paying respects.
Senior Concubine Xu was already over forty, but time had left no traces upon her. Her physique was still as delicate and exquisite as ever, like a soft willow in the wind. Her eyes contained a hint of gentleness, and her appearance was extremely simple and neat.
Empress Xiao was the opposite. Graceful and luxurious, her entire body was filled with prestige. Although she was older than Senior Concubine Xu by a few years, she still didn’t seem old and appeared to be a little over thirty. The women in the palace spent a lot of time maintaining their appearance, and the two of them had the highest status out of all women under the heavens. No wonder they still looked to be in their prime without any signs of deterioration.
“Greetings to the empress!” Senior Concubine Xu complied with palace etiquette and respectfully saluted Empress Xiao.
After rising, she gently smiled: “Is big sis here to visit his majesty? His majesty is in great spirits today. It’s all due to big sis empress’s heartfelt care these past few days.”
Empress Xiao twitched her lips at Senior Concubine Xu, “His majesty is the monarch, and is also this seat’s husband. This seat will naturally wholeheartedly care for him.”
After speaking, Empress Xiao led the people behind her into the Violet Imperial Hall.
Senior Concubine Xu smiled at the empress’s back before taking the personal palace maids at her side towards her own Chunluan2 Palace.
Inside the Violet Imperial Hall.
“Empress, I’ve told you long ago you didn’t have to work so hard. As the empress, there’s no need to personally do these things. What are all the servants for?”
“Majesty, look at what you’re saying. You are the monarch, and also this servant’s husband. If husband’s body is sick, can’t this wife of yours serve you?”
Empress Xiao’s last few words made Emperor Xi involuntarily laugh. The anger that had been caused by the crown prince these past couple days suddenly vanished. Especially since the empress never asked him for leniency regarding the crown prince’s matter as he reprimanded him. Her attitude was still very natural as she came to serve him medicine every day, making the Xi Emperor feel satisfied in his heart.
Apart from satisfaction, he also felt a little lament.
“The crown prince is really too immature.”
Hearing this, Empress Xiao didn’t show any fluctuations. She took the medicine, tested out the temperature and started helping the Xi Emperor drink it down.
Only after the Xi Emperor finished drinking did she sigh and say: “The crown prince is a little immature, and didn’t think things through properly. How could he listen to others and submit such a memorandum. Our Grand Xi Dynasty has always had these regulations for the vassal princes, and we’ve always followed the traditions. The vassal princes have military authority, but that’s also within the imperial court’s control. They’re also his own brothers. No idea what that child was thinking.”
Hearing Empress Xiao’s unbiased words, the Xi Emperor ended up holding her hand and saying comfortingly: “The crown prince is still young. He cannot be blamed for occasionally trusting those beside him. We can only blame those who are inciting things on the side. Those kinds of people cannot be spared.”
The Xi Emperor seemed to have forgotten that the crown prince was over thirty. He wasn’t young anymore.
“You majesty, you don’t have to let the crown prince off. This servant saw that once he was reprimanded, he had shut himself in the eastern palace in reflection. It’s clear that he didn’t do it intentionally. However, even if it was unintentional, mistakes are mistakes, and you should properly punish him for it.”
Empress Xiao’s attitude made Emperor Xi extremely pleased, and he responded: “Alright, it’s fine to instruct the child a little when he makes a mistake. There’s no need for empress to be too strict. After all, Zhao’er is the crown prince. It’s fine if he reflects for a few days. Otherwise outsiders might think our father son relationship isn’t harmonious.”
Empress Xiao let out a sigh of relief in her heart, but also felt a trace of coldness. She put on an annoyed act: “You just like to spoil him!”
The Xi Emperor roared with laughter, “As his mother you are so strict, so as his royal father I naturally have to protect him a little. Otherwise this child will be bullied by you.”
These words didn’t sound like something the dynasty’s son of heaven and his empress would say, but rather something a market household’s husband and wife would say when their child misbehaved.
But what things were really like on the inside, no one was clearer about it than Empress Xiao who had accompanied Emperor Xi for several decades.
Empress Xiao spoke with Emperor Xi for a little longer before helping him lie down and rest. Although Emperor Xi was supposedly healthy again, the imperial physician had also said it’s best for him to be resting outside of holding court.
After leaving the Violet Imperial Hall and returning to the Fengqi3 Palace, Empress Xiao let out a breath in relief.
Thinking back to Emperor Xi’s words, her heart was miserable.
His words hadn’t been false. As his wife for several decades, she still understood him very well. But because she understood him too well, she could also see his intent to avoid the issue.
Emperor Xi wasn’t some brilliant strategist, but he was still an intelligent ruler. His only problem was his ear was a little soft, especially towards that Senior Concubine Xu.
No one was willing to see their husband increasingly favor another woman, even if it was the empress who was supposed to be the role model for all women under the heavens. He had even repeatedly bent the laws for that woman’s sake. Otherwise, Empress Xiao wouldn’t have had to struggle with Senior Concubine Xu for several decades.
Emperor Xi indeed cherished Zhao’er, but he cherished Senior Concubine Xu’s two sons even more. That sort of cherished love made Senior Concubine Xu’s ambitions run wild, and Empress Xiao could only remain on the defensive.
Empress Xiao often involuntarily wondered if she wasn’t his main wife, if they weren’t married for several decades, if she wasn’t his empress, would the palace already be within that woman Senior Concubine Xu’s hands?
There was no answer for this question.
Things had already gotten beyond the point of heartbreak and grief. Empress Xiao’s heart had long since been filled with pain. All she wanted now was to see the crown prince safely ascend to the throne.
This time’s memorandum was also to test out the waters. Since the crown prince got reprimanded, it was clear Emperor Xi was not willing to comment on the idea of reducing the vassal princes’ military authority. She knew that a lot of this was due to Senior Concubine Xu’s moves behind the scene, but it wasn’t like she didn’t make her own preparations. Luckily she was familiar with his majesty’s personality, though it was still a close call.
Based on her current calculations, Empress Xiao knew they couldn’t act rashly, and had a trusted aide pass on her message to the crown prince.
The crown prince had been apprehensive and restless this whole time. After receiving Empress Xiao’s message, he let out a breath of relief knowing that his royal father didn’t intend to blame him. Despite this, his actions became more tightly diligent when he went to pay respects in the Violet Imperial Hall every day, and he also presented a note of repentance to Emperor Xi.
After reading the note, Emperor Xi was extremely satisfied with the crown prince, and the last bit of dissatisfaction towards the crown prince in his heart vanished.
For this case, Emperor Xi ended up punishing an auxiliary official within the eastern palace. The reason was that he had led the crown prince astray into doing something wrong. Luckily the crown prince had suddenly repented and ended up back on the correct path.
As for what really happened, those old officials in the court were quite clear about it.
The crown prince had probed the two vassal princes out and ended up fighting to a draw. The only unfortunate one was the scapegoat who “led the crown prince astray”.
Having muddled along in the court for so many years, these old officials were all extremely sharp. They had stayed out of things from the very beginning. As for those with less understanding who jumped right in, their outcome was the same as those mortals who suffered calamity when immortals fought.
Of course, these were all minor details that didn’t cause any waves.
Despite saying that they wouldn’t really be affected, how could they feel at ease if things didn’t have a real conclusion?
The news from the capital entered the Jing Prince Estate in a steady flow. After various analysis by the Jing Prince and Huang Qin, both of their hearts gradually relaxed.
The news from the mole had also arrived, and after comparing both sides, the Jing Prince was mostly clear regarding the capital’s situation.
To put it plainly, the burning city gates ended up causing calamity to the fish in the pond. Luckily there was more smoke than fire in this case.
What the Jing Prince didn’t expect was both sides would start probing each other out this early in this life. After coming to this conclusion, he also prepared to make some changes to his own plans.
Having gotten busy, he had no free time to stop by the western pavilion.
After being occupied for the entire day, it was already midnight by the time he returned to the Hall of Splendor.
The normally tall and upright Jing Prince had been buried behind his desk these past few days. He was also accustomed to not shifting his posture. Although it wasn’t clear on the surface, Eunuch Fu could tell that the Jing Prince was walking rather stiffly.
After sitting down in the hall, the Jing Prince had planned on going to the western pavilion. But looking at the time and remembering that he had to get up early, he decided against it.
“Does highness feel some discomfort in your bones?” Eunuch Fu asked on the side.
Seeing the Jing Prince remain silent, he spoke again: “It’s a shame it’s already late. Madam Hua has definitely gone to bed already, or else we could have her help you loosen up. It would definitely be more comfortable.”
When Xiao Hua was mentioned, the Jing Prince’s rigid face finally turned a little warmer.
Thinking of that little flower, the Jing Prince remembered her fussing as she helped him loosen up. Things like not maintaining the same posture for too long, having to move around after sitting for a while, and even if he didn’t get up he should stretch his neck a little to prevent things from being stiff and uncomfortable….
He slightly stretched his neck a few times, which made a few slight cracking sounds.
Eunuch Fu was given a fright, though the Jing Prince didn’t feel anything. He only felt that stretching his neck made him feel alive all of a sudden, and that he wasn’t as wooden as before.
Alive was alive, but he still felt extremely sore.
“Highness, since this is for the sake of your body, this old servant has considered that since Madam Hua is a madam, we cannot always have her do so much work. This servant specially found someone who knows how to massage. How about having that person massage you a little?”
The Jing Prince didn’t think too much about it, and only remembered how tired Xiao Hua had been the last time. He felt Eunuch Fu’s words made a lot of sense and didn’t refuse.
If he could get loosened up, he wouldn’t feel as sore in the morning.
Eunuch Fu’s face revealed happiness and he went off to arrange it.
After a while he came back and to arrange the location for the Jing Prince’s massage.
It was still that same recliner where Xiao Hua first helped the Jing Prince loosen up. After Xiao Hua left the Hall of Splendor, the slightly elevated recliner had never been switched out. Even the initial embroidery was still there.
“Highness, how about taking a bath before starting?”
Having observed so many times, he had learned a thing or two. Eunuch Fu knew that Madam Hua would always have the Jing Prince take a bath before massaging him.
Eunuch Fu helped the Jing Prince sit down on the recliner and said: “This servant also brought over Doctor Hu’s ointment. How about highness takes off his shirt?”
The Jing Prince muttered to himself for a bit before shaking his head.
Eunuch Fu didn’t speak again. After the Jing Prince lay down on his stomach, he waved his hand and had the person enter.
The one who came in was shockingly the young girl called Qian Xi. She wore a small pink jacket, her waist pinched tightly and looking lithe. A pair of limpid peach blossom eyes were filled with curiosity and apprehension.
Eunuch Fu spent no little effort in arranging this batch of low ranked palace maids. Without mentioning anything else, he had even arranged someone to teach those he found some massage skills.
Eunuch Fu was rather fond of the young girl called Qian Xi. It wasn’t just due to her appearance and her eyes. She was also an intelligent person and did her best in learning the skills. She was the most skilled out of these eight people.
Everyone had ambition. Eunuch Fu liked those with such ambition. All in all, Eunuch Fu didn’t mind giving her a push to ascend.
The Jing Prince lay prone and naturally didn’t see the person who had come. Only when he felt the contact against his back did he realize that it seemed to be a girl. He felt some revulsion in his heart, but since he felt sore all over he forced himself to endure it.
After a round of massage, he seemed to really feel much better. After being massaged for over half an hour, the Jing prince sat up. He naturally didn’t see the out of breath young girl who Eunuch Fu had hinted to kneel with his gaze.
“Highness, do you feel better?”
The Jing Prince didn’t say anything. He put on his shoes and walked out.
After the Jing Prince had gone to sleep, Eunuch Fu came out. Qian Xi was still within the hall and hadn’t left yet.
Eunuch Fu smiled and gave her a measuring glance, saying: “Very well done. This is a good start. Speak less and do more, it’ll be good for you.”
He saw Qian Xi’s happy expression and flashing eyes.
He frowned and said, “Restrain your expressions a little. Your gaze should also be more restrained.”
Qian Xi remembered what Eunuch Fu had said in the past, and half lowered her head.
Eunuch Fu looked again before nodding his head in satisfaction.
“That’s better. Our highness doesn’t like the restless ones.”
Yep, this is a super long chapter. Stealing the throne is something on the itinerary. This author doesn’t expect to write about it in detail, and will bring it up in the future. But there still needs to be an introduction for everyone to understand the situation.
- Not sure if the provinces are named after the princes or not. Half of them have the same character in their name as their title and their province. The fourth prince’s name is different from his title and his province. The “Jing” in the fifth prince’s name “Luo Jing” is written slightly differently from the “Jing” in his title and province.
- Pure Luan (the mythical bird)
- Phoenix Perch