Second Arc ー Chapter 6 (Part 3): Ear Piercing
The night was as cool as water.
The sound of the drum marking the watches of the night came from afar but it was barely audible. Far away from the main palace’s warm room, the young Son of Heaven was wearing casual clothes as he reclined on the brocade couch. There was a long, small table placed in front of the couch. On top of the small table were memorials which were piled high up like a mountain while there was also one held in his hand. He appeared slightly tired. Luo Heng who was at the side discerned what he was thinking by weighing his words and observing his countenance and sent him ginseng tea. “Your Majesty, do rest for a while.”
Zhao Yin accepted the teacup but did not drink. His gaze remained fixed attentively on the memorial. Looking from Luo Heng’s angle, it could be seen that that memorial stood out from the rest. The other memorials all had a light blue cover while only this had a matchless luxurious golden purple color. The bottom right corner was even drawn with a snake totem. When he saw this totem, he understood at once. How was that a memorial? That was clearly the credentials sent from Nation Cheng.
Among the four nations, Nation Bi occupied the position of being the widest and its totem was the dragon; Nation Yan occupied the position of being the strongest and its totem was the swallow; Nation Yi occupied the position of being the wealthiest and its totem was the crane; Only Nation Cheng was surrounded by water on all sides. It was a small island and its shape was like a snake so the snake was the holiest since ancient times. Although its soil was infertile and the land lacked resources, every single person in the nation was fond of martial arts and were hardworking and able to endure hardships. They also widely recruited virtuous people, talents and skilled craftsmen to devote their efforts to studying intensively in weapons. The population was altogether a mere 8 million but it had 2 million elite troops in store. It was well known to everybody what they were plotting for.
Who would have expected that ‘Man proposes, God disposes’. Just as King Cheng, Ming Gong(Míng Gōng), was preparing to cross the sea to attack the wealthiest Nation Cheng in one shot, he suddenly suffered a stroke when he rose from bed one day, causing one side of his body to be paralyzed and he still could not walk until today.
He was 49 years old, with three sons and one daughter. What was rather interesting was that Ming Gong did not like all his three sons and solely favored Princess Yi Shu(Yí Shū). Hence, there was a rumor that if whichever imperial prince receives Yi Shu’s help, he would definitely become the next King Cheng.
Now that he wrote a letter here, it was unknown as to what matter it was which actually made His Majesty this dignified.
Zhao Yin placed the teacup to the side and sighed lightly. He muttered, “Among the court full of civil and military officials, don’t tell me we can’t find a second person who can marry Yi Shu?”
Luo Heng gave a start. ‘So King Cheng wants to marry the Princess off?’
As if he had seen through his thoughts, Zhao Yin cast a sidelong glance at him and said, “On the twenty-ninth of the next month which is King Cheng’s fiftieth birthday, he wishes to make use of this opportunity to choose a husband for Princess Yi Shu. Luo Heng, who do you think this emperor should dispatch?”
‘With His Majesty’s honorable position, he certainly can’t personally make the trip there while among the court full of civil and military officials who can match that noble princess, after musing over it, there is also only one person. But based on His Majesty’s intentions just now, it’s clear that he doesn’t want to let that person go. In that case, who else is there…’ Luo Heng pondered over it in his heart while answering gingerly, “If Your Majesty is in a difficult position, why not choose another outstanding person, confer a noble title and dispatch him there?”
“These words are easily said. This kind of duckweed with no foundation, it would be strange if Nation Cheng’s princess wants.”
“Actually, it can’t be considered that there’s no foundation. For example, that Jiang…” When he said until here, he stopped implicitly.
Whereas Zhao Yin’s eyes shone as expected. He raised his eyebrows and called out, “Tian Jiu!”
The next moment, Tian Jiu was kneeling before the palace hall.”
“How’s the matter I have assigned you going?”
Tian Jiu replied, “The Ye Clan always have had few people. When it reached Ye Ran, he’s already the only bloodline left. Therefore, other than Consort, the real Ye people have all died. Although if we were to look into it very detailedly, Imperial Physician Jiang can be barely considered Consort’s seventh generation mother’s cousin but that’s ultimately forcing it.”
Luo Heng smiled as he said, “If His Majesty wants him to be considered as one, then he naturally has to be considered as one.”
Zhao Yin knitted his eyebrows.
Luo Heng took advantage of the situation to say, “Imperial Physician Jiang is the Imperial Physician Institute’s Chief and can’t be promoted anymore. However, his son Jiang Wanyi is instead a commoner without rank and has yet to achieve scholarly honor in the imperial examinations. His appearance and deportment are outstanding and on top of that, his medical skills are divine so I presume his literary talents should also be not bad. After Your Majesty lets Consort acknowledge the Jiang Family as relatives, he would be Consort’s cousin brother. Although he wouldn’t be an aristocrat, he would have boundless prospects. If he were to marry Princess Yi Shu, it would also be a great help to Consort in the future.”
Zhao Yin’s gaze turned slightly and suddenly smiled. “In the future? Could it be that Luo Heng already knows about my arrangements for Xihe in the future?”
Luo Heng’s heart trembled. He knew that he had violated a taboo and hastily knelt down. “This old servant misspoke, may Your Majesty forgive.”
Zhao Yin beamed as he said, “You may rise. On the account that you have come up with such an exceptional candidate, I’ll pardon you this once. You have always acted with much propriety. You don’t need me to remind you a second time.”
Luo Heng hastily replied with an assent. When he wiped his forehead, he felt his hand full of cold sweat. Watching this emperor grow up, he could not help but say that Zhao Yin was really the one with the most complex personality he had seen among the children of the imperial household. He had the perseverance of a wolf, the craftiness of a fox and the vigilance of a rabbit. He always appeared all smiles on the surface and looked like he had a very good temperament but the things he did were more and more extreme. Everyone had not expected that he would fall out with the Xue Family. Especially that time when Xihe created a ruckus at Jing Yang Palace, he even protected the Empress with all his might but who would have predicted that in the blink of an eye, he deposed the Empress, captured the Empress’ brother, force the generals to revolt and chop off their heads. Within the span of two months which passed like the thunder and moved like the wind, he swiftly and decisively uprooted the Xue Family which was one of the four great aristocratic families; He appeared to favor Xihe but in order to achieve his goals, he had no scruples in letting her use her body to test the poison and become ill for several months. As for that so-called child which she had miscarriage he was really unsure. It was a fortune to know even one less matter in this palace; In addition, he suddenly took Jiang Chenyu as his imperial consort. No matter how he looked at it, it seemed like he was purposely snatching Marquis Qi Ao’s wife. He was really such an unfathomable person. Working as a servant under this new emperor needed him to be extremely careful. Otherwise, as soon as he is uncareful, he may offend him and wouldn’t even know how he died.
He still had some lingering fear on this side when on the other side, Zhao Yin stroked the space between his eyebrows gently and was pensive as he said, “Tian Jiu, how is Xue Cai’s situation after he arrived at the Marquis Residence?”
Tian Jiu answered, “Wherever Lord Marquis went, he would bring him along. He would send him on errands and order him around just like other servants. There is nothing special at all.”
“Did he teach him to study and practise martial arts?”
Tian Jiu thought for a moment. “No. But…”
“But this lowly one thinks that following by Marquis Qi Ao’s side and observing his bearing is already the best paragon.”
Zhao Yin became silent. He reached out two fingers and lightly drummed the table top again and again unhurriedly. For the other two people in the room, Tian Jiu was kneeling while Luo Heng was standing his back bent. Both did not dare to make a sound.
After a very long time passed like this, Zhao Yin finally stopped knocking the desk and asked, “Based on your opinions, what is Qi Ao’s intention? Is he dispelling the enmity and grooming him into a talent or is he stifling him like this and let him never have a day where he can free himself in this life?”
Tian Jiu thought for very long and answered, “If it were this lowly person, I would definitely not be rest assured with keeping such a young tiger by my side and would definitely nip it in the bud to prevent any eventuality.”
“But, Qi Ao is not a lowly person, therefore, he would definitely not do this.”
“This subject heard that all beast tamer have to start from young beasts. They have to feed them, train them and increase their skills to gain their hearts. Among all of these, gaining their hearts is the toughest. However, once they succeed, after the young beast grows into an adult beast, it would be absolutely loyal to the beast tamer and obey him in everything.
Zhao Yin narrowed his eyes. Luo Heng read his expression and hastily added, “However, no matter what the outcome is, it wouldn’t change a fact ー regardless of whether it is the Xues or the Jis, only when Your Majesty is willing to let them be impressive can they be impressive. If Your Majesty is unhappy, it only takes a matter of moments for the edifice to collapse.”
Zhao Yin harrumphed but was smiling a little. “Only you have the sweetest mouth.” He paused for a moment before he continued, “However, if it were this emperor, this emperor would also want to foster him.”
Luo Heng immediately revealed a very curious expression. As expected, Zhao Yin expounded, “That’s because we should be magnanimous just like how the sea accepts countless rivers that run into it. Qi Ao’s temperament is gentle. He is clever in his actions and cautious in his speech. It is not over the top to describe him as someone who accomplishes great deeds by being composed and displaying lofty ideals by living a simple life. It can be said that he is entirely different from this emperor but there is only one characteristic he has which is similar to this emperor. That is ー self-confidence.”
When he spoke until here, his noble aspirations were aroused. Zhao Yin placed his hands behind his back as he walked towards the window and gazed fixedly at the full moon in the sky. “Since this emperor can spare his life, then I have the self-confidence that I can firmly control him within my palms. If I don’t even have this bit of self-confidence, then I would be ashamed to be the ruler of a nation and the monarch of Nation Bi!”
The breeze swirled outside the window and as the blossoming flowers swayed, a person emerged from the shrubs and looked over her from far away.
The two people’s eyes met.
Zhao Yin was startled while that person had already bent her knees and knelt down respectfully. “Chenyu pays my respects to Your Majesty. I have something to request, may I ask if I can be summoned for an audience.”
Alright, I’m back haha. I’m not sure how many of you read my announcement last time but anyway, there’s a new announcement so do check it out for the ‘mass’ release and updates. 🙂