“Don’t be rude!”
Wang Chaoluan angrily shouted, but the one it was used against was her own son, Li Yuanxu.
This is the first time that Li Yuanxu saw his Royal Mother being so protective of others. Moreover, it was just a completely unimportant lowly person. He was unwilling to give up his pride for a moment, and was about to speak a few words. Then he saw the grave and depressed look on her face. She looked worried. In the end, he didn’t dare to touch his Royal Mother’s inverse scale at that moment, and could only restrain himself, glaring at Li Yuanmin viciously.
Wang Chaoluan took a deep breath. She looked at Li Yuanlang up and down, smiling but not smiling: “Second Royal Highness is really skilled in instigating people.”
Li Yuanlang was startled. He hurriedly cupped his hands: “Yuanlang dare not.”
He secretly regretted his instigation just now in his heart. If it were in private, then it’s fine. He knew Li Yuanxu, that barbarian, could only be at his own mercy, but in front of Wang Chaoluan, this expert who has deeply immersed herself in the harem for over ten years, how could she have not seen through his thoughts.
He originally concealed himself extremely deeply. Unexpectedly, when he saw that cheap b*stard, his mind heated up and made him lose his sense of reason. Now he didn’t know if Wang Chaoluan would hold on to this matter, and if….
He breathed heavily for a short while, trying to think of good words to say. But, Wang Chaoluan had already turned away to leave, making him unable to speak. His heart became even more restless. He could only drop his hands and retreat to the side.
Today, Wang Chaoluan dressed up especially grand, and even the smallest details were exquisite. But, she had worked hard for several days, had many dreams during the night, thus was inevitably tired. Even though, presently she adorned face powder meticulously, nevertheless, a few dark shadows could be seen. Although Qing He’s skills were good, it still couldn’t cover up the weary look on her face. The areas between her eyebrows showed a thread of impatience from many sleepless nights.
It was not her making problems for herself, but these past few days, she was filling the money holes of the disaster relief in Zhexi, thus, was considered to be under quite some pressure. On top of that, there was the Autumn Selection matter, which had almost exhausted all her efforts.
It was also irritating that Marquis Zhenbei’s mansion had remained tight-lipped, not even letting a thread of news come out. Not to mention them, even the Eldest Prince had eaten the same closed door soup and was not letting any news out. It was as if this Autumn Selection in which the Royal Family and noble descendants attached great importance to, was not related to Sima Ji at all.
Seeing that the two princes had gradually grown up, some matters…… had no choice but to be sped up. This matter regarding winning over Marquis Zhenbei’s mansion, even if the Eldest Prince didn’t have the upper hand, but who asked him to have a good maternal uncle. The Zhao Family, Left Prime Minister Zhao Gou’s subordinates were numerous. Even if they couldn’t rope in Marquis Zhenbei’s mansion to enter the curtain (have him work under him), they already controlled half the power inside the Imperial Household already. How could she be at peace?
What is this old fox Sima Ji planning?
She didn’t believe that Sima Ji would sincerely be willing to be a simple official. She was afraid that even if he was willing to be, his whole Marquis Zhenbei’s mansion and clan behind him wouldn’t fulfil his wish either–Which noble family could stand alone in the faction struggle? With each successive dynasty, a new emperor will take over and powers inside the court will decline or increase. If he doesn’t fight, especially with him being in the leading position now, his influential family wouldn’t tolerate a simple life.
It’s meaningless to guess now. The result will be clear after the event at noon today. Fortunately, Sima Ji and the Left Prime Minister were always at odds with each other. Today, their chances of winning were not small, but it’s not the end yet. She was still inevitably nervous. After all, years of experience in the palace taught her to understand one thing–never to count anything before it falls into the pocket.
She was too worried in her heart. At dawn, seeing her biological son being stupid, two, three times following Li Yuanlang’s obvious comments, foolishly acting as someone else’s weapon, yet didn’t know anything, made her furious. Li Yuanlang….. had grown up in the end and his intentions had also grown a bit.
Her heart was a bit worried, it was just that she naturally won’t find trouble with him as of now. But just wait until today’s matter was finished, then she will carefully beat him, so as to avoid him forgetting his role!
Having many affairs piling up together like this made her heart agitated. However, Wang Chaoluan wasn’t an ordinary person, so she immediately suppressed it. She pulled Li Yuanmin and said a few words of comfort, while scolding Li Yuanxu.
She was unable to wholeheartedly trust in Li Yuanmin’s skill in being an oracle. However, to tell her to completely get rid of her fear, it was impossible to deal with it casually as before. Otherwise, this time, she wouldn’t need to be under pressure and move all over the place to make up for the Zhexi disaster relief funds. Even more, she wouldn’t need to spend various mental and physical efforts to rope Li Yuanmin in.
Yesterday, she gave many instructions to Li Yuanxu. She ordered him to not act recklessly and humiliate Li Yuanmin as he did in the past. Although she didn’t state the reason for it clearly, her tone was heavy. Surely, he too would understand this important matter. Yet, unexpectedly–this biological son, how long is he going to make her worried?
Originally, she only wanted to pretend to scold him a few words. However, together with her agitated heart, she immediately lashed out curses at him. Li Yuanxu was resentful in his heart being scolded in front of everybody like this, and his heart became even more hateful. But, he still had filial piety and dared not contradict her to her face. His complexion ashened. He gritted his teeth and added a few more accounts for Li Yuanmin in his heart.
After the show was sufficient, Wang Chaoluan stepped forward and comforted Li Yuanmin a few more words.
Li Yuanmin had a grateful look on his face. Like this, this morning’s dispute, in everyone’s mind, passed over simply like this.
Today’s Imperial School was more dignified and heavy than usual.
Bei An State was founded by following the previous dynasty to set up three central government departments and six ministries. In addition, the Ministry of Rites set up a special director of ceremonies to supervise this Autumn Selection, which shows its grandeur.
After the drum’s sound rang three times, Emperor Mingde led a hundred Imperial Officials to worship Confucius, and offer sacrifices to heaven and earth.
After a long time, the sound of drums stopped. Emperor Mingde sat at the front seat, and a curtain was set up next to it. Empress Sima brought along the Imperial Concubines and sat according to their positions.
On the high platform, Emperor Mingde faced numerous officials that were kowtowing: “Beloved ministers, you may all rise.”
The officials all shouted, long live the Emperor.
The Left Prime Minister, Lord Zhao Gou’s experience was the most long-standing. Moreover, he was already over 60 years of age already. The emperor had given him a special seat as the first seat under him to him, and the rest of the officials were seated according to their official ranks. The frontmost seat was thus for the Emperor’s important ministers. The highest ranking noble, Sima Ji of Marquis Zhenbei and his son, Sima Yu, who had reached 16 years old was seated on his left side. The father and son raised their brows and sat down. Their appearances and bearings were impressive. It was just Sima Ji was born in the ranks and had experienced great changes in life, so he somewhat had the air of a soldier, thus making people unable to underestimate him.
Autumn Selection, on one hand, was to show the great grace of the Imperial Family, and the second was for the princes to choose their trusted ministers. When all the officials took their seat, the ceremonial official unfolded the dossier, extolled the benevolences of the Imperial Family, and further convened and announced the grace of the Imperial Family. Emperor Mingde had given some remarks according to the routine. In this way, it’s finally Chenshi (7-9am).
The four princes came through the south gate. The one who walked in the front was the Eldest Prince, Li Yuanqian. Next, was the Fourth Prince, Li Yuanxu, and the two princes who were born from the female entertainers, Li Yuanlang and the Third Prince, Li Yuanmin who followed closely behind.
With all sorts of characters, each was different from the other. Only the last person, who was rather frail, did not resemble a Royal child.
Many officials who were present all sighed with sorrow.
Li Yuanqian boldly took a seat. Last month, he had reached 16, and already looked like an adult. He was born with a grand presence, majestic appearance, and his looks were rather similar to Emperor Mingde. Although Emperor Mingde doted on the Fourth Prince, Li Yuanxu, he wasn’t indifferent to him. Early on, he had given permission for him to take a position in court. He had bestowed a Prince’s mansion to him and had him supervising internal affairs, which was of great importance.
Lord Left Prime Minister looked at the dashing figure of his nephew, and couldn’t help stroking his beard, showing an admiring gaze.
Wang Guifei hid behind the bead curtain, looking towards Li Yuanqian who was a head taller than her own son. He was particularly calm with a dignified bearing. She couldn’t help but hate him in her heart. And seeing Li Yuanxu hiding behind him, yawning quietly, her heart became even more agitated.
Empress Sima had also seen it, and smiled softly. Chu Guiren* behind her also raising her eyebrows and said: “It looks like Fourth Royal Highness has been working hard this time period, it must have been hard on Guifei Niang Niang.”
(Guiren: noble status)
How could Wang Chaoluan not understand the sarcastic intent of this Empress’s follower, she sneered back: “This child of Ben Gong is slow-witted, thus has to work harder. This suffering, younger sister has finally experienced it. Empress Niang Niang, do you agree?”
The meaning was very clear—Both of you wanted to suffer the pain of giving guidance to a prince’s hardship, you both don’t have the qualifications to.
Chu Guiren’s complexion tightened. She turned her head back with a light humph. Empress Sima didn’t show any other expressions, only shouted: “We’re attending the ceremony, don’t make a racket.”
The rest of the Imperial Concubines had various expressions on their faces. Some watched from the sidelines and rejoiced in other people’s misfortune. Some were self-pitying from what they’ve heard. Some endured the bitter resentment silently…. Only the birth mother of the Eldest Prince, Imperial Concubine Zhao Shu did not participate in the surge. Her face showed a distracted expression. Her gaze dazedly looked towards a certain figure under the high platform.
Behind the curtain was a big battlefield, but in front of the curtain was even more so.
The Autumn Selection had four different parts: poetry, literature, essay, and discussion to evaluate the princes. Although, in the open, it was said that the essay topic would only be announced on the day of the event, but the four princes naturally had a way to obtain the essay topic from the Imperial Academy in advance through various means. Furthermore, there were prepared essays drafted by the administrators for the exam, and adding remuneration of polished works, it was all literary remarkable.
The sun gradually shifted to the center. When 9am arrived, the ceremonial official tolled a bell. The princes on the high platform all put down their pen and paper, to prevent any more writing. Following this, the court eunuchs received the papers and went behind the curtain to make a copy of the handwriting. Then, they put it inside four secret boxes, and presented it to the Emperor.
Emperor Mingde casually opened a secret box, and flipped through two scrolls. A smile floated up on his face. He repeatedly said good. Then, he commanded ceremonial officials to hang the scroll on the high platform’s wooden poles, and made all the officials judge it. It was divided into four ranks following the four colors of jade slips: orange, green, light yellow and black.
But today’s focus was obviously not how the princes did in the exams, but the decisions of these marquises of the noble families. Naturally, the majority of them had already decided, but the biggest variable today was Maquis Zhenbei, Sima Ji.
Although everyone pretended to look like they were evaluating, their eyesight couldn’t help but gather on Marquis Zhenbei’s body, but he didn’t seem to pay attention. He walked slowly, while stroking his beard. He smiled and talked cheerfully with the administrators of the Imperial Academy near him. Occasionally, he referred to the poems on the wooden polls.
Wang Chaoluan impatiently sat behind the curtain. She had waited for half a day already, but still hadn’t seen Sima Ji choose to place any jade slip. Her heart almost hung out her throat. She cursed this old fox for making gestures and not allow people to have a straightforward response.
The high platform was flowing with darkness, and everyone was paying attention to the number of four-color jade slips. Only Li Yuanmin was not thinking about it. He only lowered his eyes, and stared at the table in front of him in a daze. On the faint green color table, a drop of ink accidentally dropped on it. It slowly penetrated, and stained the table with an indelible stain.
Looking at that ink stain, his heart became oddly calm.
When meeting again, he thought he couldn’t even hold the pen.
After he stepped on the high platform, that gaze from beginning to end had always been on his face.
He slowly raised his head and met a pair of gentle and elegant eyes.
In his last life, he had once walked towards an irreversible road step by step under such gaze.