The Regent’s Secret Chapter 64

Chapter 64

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In the spring of the Imperial Forest Garden, the mountains and rivers were quiet, and colorful flags were hung on the mountaintops to remind people that this was the imperial hunting ground and could not be trespassed.

Zhao Yuan came to accompany the emperor to test the horses. Among the several batches of war horses brought by Hami and Danluo, several precious horses were specially contributed for use in the palace.

The horses had all been chosen, and Zhao Heng couldn’t contain his excitement and wanted to run freely. Zhao Yuan and Wei Che rode on either side of him, one protecting him and the other watching his nephew, maSu Wangre he didn’t go too far.

Once they had run off some steam, Zhao Heng relaxed the reins and rode along the riverbank. Zhao Yuan talked to him, and they gradually rode side by side, with Wei Che and several other imperial guards following a few horse lengths behind.

Zhao Heng was telling Su Wang jokes about Duke Ding’s mansion. Zhao Yuan listened and laughed, “Why does Your Majesty need to personally handle this matter? Let your ministers take care of it, it might be more appropriate.”

Zhao Heng smiled before he spoke, “I’m sure Uncle can handle it well. If the Regent himself came and smashed the Duke Ding’s mansion, it would be settled.”

Zhao Yuan’s face did not show any surprise. He simply nodded and said, “If Duke Ding misbehaves again, I will definitely follow the Emperor’s order and smash his mansion.”

Zhao Heng shook his head and laughed. When he stopped laughing, he sighed, “Mother still treats me like a child.”

Zhao Yuan thought for a moment and said, “Your Majesty will take power in less than two years, and you won’t have to be restrained by anyone then.”

The Emperor nodded and urged his horse to run again.

In the third year of Qi Yuan’s reign, the state had been established for three years, and it was the first year of the spring examination in the new dynasty.

Zhao Heng paced back and forth in the Sizheng Hall and was eager to plan. When Zhao Yuan came in, he saw the Emperor sitting restlessly and asked him, “How did Your Majesty feel about the papers I reviewed?”

Ten or so exam papers were all filled with the youthful vigor of ambitious young men, some of which were quite bold, quoting the ancients to criticize the present, overtly and covertly intending to bring down the regent prince.

Zhao Yuan looked at the young emperor’s eager face, full of the vigor and vitality of one who was ready to lead the country. He replied, “These papers are eloquent and direct in pointing out current problems, especially Zhang Sheng’s paper. He could be appointed as an imperial censor in the future.”

Zhang Sheng was the young man who dared to criticize the regent prince in his paper.

“This person is daring but reckless. It might be better to fail him in this examination and see how he performs in the next one. This will also teach him a lesson,” said Zhao Heng, not commenting on the appropriateness of Zhang Sheng’s paper, but questioning Zhao Yuan about the backgrounds of the other candidates. Zhao Yuan handed over the detailed backgrounds he had copied, and the emperor carefully reviewed them at his desk.

Su Wang stood silently in the hall, his eyes sweeping over the newly budding greenery outside the window, fearing that the court would soon change to a new generation, just like the old branches giving way to the new leaves.

The emperor used Zhang Sheng’s paper to criticize him, and Zhao Yuan knew that the young emperor was eager to take the reins of power.

“I want to personally supervise this palace examination. What do you think, Regent Prince?” After reviewing the list of candidates, Zhao Heng asked this final question.

Zhao Yuan had long expected this statement. As the saying goes, the emperor’s student would be the new imperial scholar. If only the new scholars saw him, the regent, sitting on the throne, it would be as if they were his students.

Su Wang respectfully replied that it was appropriate, and bowed out of the Sizheng Hall.

Ping An was packing Li Yi’s overnight belongings. As promised a few days ago, they would have a day off tomorrow, and the regent prince would take Li Yi on a pleasure boat ride to the spring lake upstream.

Spring is the best time to tour the lake. The little East Lake in the city is crowded with people coming and going. However, the Dongan Lake in the outskirts of the city is quite different. Its magnificent scenery is famous throughout the world. There are lakes within the lake and mountains encircling the outside. One day is not enough to appreciate all its beauty.

During the busiest season, only a few luxurious boats of high-ranking officials can be seen on the lake, each at a safe distance from each other, leisurely boating.

Ping An was late to follow Li Yi, and he had never enjoyed these beautiful places before. He had only glimpsed some ruined sketches that faintly depicted the splendor of the past. In the days when he was a commoner, Ping An had always wanted to visit the lake. But now that he had the chance, Li Yi saw that he was listless and asked him what was wrong.

“Master, I thought it was good that you followed the regent prince. But after the imperial edict came out earlier this year, I often heard people discussing His Highness, as ‘Nine Thousand Years Old.’ Is that really a good thing? He’s being praised too highly, and it may not end well when the current emperor takes over.”

“Ping An, you have grown up so much.” Li Yi sighed with emotion, “If you can think of these things, then tell me, what should your master do?”

Ping An, who was originally a handsome and lively young man, now had a face full of worry lines. “I was thinking, should we wait until then before becoming a monk?”

Li Yi laughed heartily, then patted Ping An’s head and comforted him, “Life is unpredictable, and in these years, so much has happened. How can we predict everything? We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Let’s just wait and see.”

On the boat, the cool breeze brushed their faces. The crescent moon hung over the center of the lake, casting a shimmering reflection of its hooked shape in the water, scattering waves of light in all directions. The mountain peaks that looked white in the daytime turned into hazy mist in the night.

Su Wang laid lazily at the bow of the boat, drinking from a wine pot under the moonlight. His posture was as relaxed as a sleeping mountain, exuding an indescribable charm.

Li Yi couldn’t help but itch to draw the person in front of him with the clear wine on the railing of the boat.

Zhao Yuan sighed and said, “I thought we would only stay for a day. If I knew, I would have let Ping An bring all your tools.”

Li Yi felt embarrassed and stopped his hand, thinking he wouldn’t be noticed, but was caught red-handed. “The boat sways, and I told Ping An not to bring them,” he explained.

Zhao Yuan raised his head and took a sip of his wine, then tossed the remaining liquor into the lake with a fluid motion, the silver trail of the wine reflecting the moonlight. His gesture was effortless and carefree, making others envious.

Turning his head, he extended his long arm and offered Li Yi his wine cup. With it full, he asked, “What are you thinking about?”

Li Yi had just shifted his gaze to the center of the lake when Zhao Yuan brought him back. Their eyes met, and Li Yi didn’t intend to lie. “I’m thinking about Your Highness.”

Zhao Yuan raised his eyebrows and sat up. “Oh, what are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking about how Your Highness will deal with the Emperor’s plot,” Li Yi answered.

The Emperor had raised him high, but it was only the beginning.

Zhao Yuan smiled. “Hardly anyone in this world would like to see me have a good ending. You can probably count them on one hand.”

Who wouldn’t want to see him fall from grace, shed blood, and gain something from it?

Su Wang was not Ping An and Li Yi doesn’t need to avoid the important and dwell on the trivial, but to speak directly about the situation he has estimated.

“Before His Majesty takes power, there are several forces that needs to be weakened for him to sit firmly in that position. Apart from His Highness, there is also the one in the Ningan Palace, the Shen family, and the princes headed by Ning Wang.”

Zhao Yuan added, “Ning Wang has now allied with the Shen family. His Majesty has just made them relatives by marriage.”

Surprised at first, Li Yi felt that this was an inevitable development. “Without a marriage alliance, these two families may also come together for their mutual interests. If the Empress Dowager cannot win over His Highness, she can only turn to the princes and unite against him.”

Zhao Yuan nodded, he understood everything. He gestured for Li Yi to continue.

“In the future, His Majesty is very likely to let His Highness and the Empress Dowager and the princes fight against each other, while he sits back and reaps the rewards. Although it may sound presumptuous, His Majesty is still young and may not have enough mental and physical strength, even if he has the desire.”

Zhao Yuan smirked and suddenly said, “Bai Xian.”

Li Yi didn’t understand at first, so Zhao Yuan leaned in and the smell of alcohol enveloped them both. Zhao Yuan whispered in his ear, “Bai Xian is His Majesty.”

“Ah.” Li Yi whispered.

Zhao Yuan blinked and backed away. He said to Li Yi, “Now that you know who His Majesty is, you know that he has enough wisdom and courage to carry out your plan.”

At this point, Li Yi truly felt that Zhao Yuan was in a precarious situation. He thought of another question but hesitated to ask.

Seeing that Li Yi was reluctant to speak, Zhao Yuan threw his wine cup and pulled him into his embrace. He held him tightly and asked, “What do you want to say?”

Li Yi was forced to speak and asked, “Why didn’t Your Highness….”

“Why didn’t I take that position for myself and save myself all this trouble?”

Zhao Yuan turned Li Yi’s back to face him and rubbed him into his embrace. They looked up at the glittering stars in the sky. Zhao Yuan pointed to a lake on a spring night and showed it to Li Yi.

“I never had that idea. I had no interest in it. I just wanted to settle this matter and spend my days with someone in the mountains and waters.”

In the silence, several heartstrings were plucked without Li Yi even realizing it.

Zhao Yuan lowered his head and buried it on Li Yi’s shoulder, whispering in his ear, “Don’t worry, no one can harm me except for you.”

Li Yi turned his head to say something, but Zhao Yuan’s gentle and tender kiss had already fallen on his lips…

The gentle waves beneath the boat carried them thousands of miles away.

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