After listening to the Eldest Prince’s suggestion, Consort Xi’s mouth trembled with excitement, but her expression kept changing, sometimes showing happiness and sometimes sadness.
Although she knew that this method was much more reliable than relying on historical records to persuade the Emperor, Consort Xi became even more disappointed.
The Eldest Prince had played a huge joke on her. Consort Xi, with a troubled expression, whispered, “Your Highness makes a lot of sense, but I am just a concubine in the harem. How can I seek the help of officials from the Directorate of Astronomy? Not to mention they wouldn’t even acknowledge me, I can’t even meet an official.”
The Eldest Prince appeared pensive, his eyes cast downward, saying nothing.
Consort Xi quickly composed herself and forced a smile, “Many thanks, Your Highness, for sincerely offering advice for us, mother and son. It’s just my own inadequacy. I can only leave it to fate.”
The Eldest Prince raised his eyes to look at her, paused for a moment, and spoke in a low voice, “If Your Highness is willing to trust me, from now on, do not seek help from anyone else. Keep a low profile and wait for the imperial decree. Do not attract unnecessary attention. If you hear of any trouble caused by me in the near future, you can distance yourself. There’s no need to speak up on my behalf.”
Consort Xi was taken aback, her eyes widening gradually. Knowing that the Eldest Prince was willing to stand up for her, her heart was moved. Tears glistened in her eyes. She crouched down, as if about to perform a grand bow.
“No need for excessive courtesy,” the Eldest Prince gently supported her and whispered, “I’ll leave now. Pretend I was never here.”
After the Eldest Prince had left for a while, Xue Yao quietly emerged from the inner chambers.
Consort Xi sat in silence by the Eight Immortals’ table, wiping away her tears.
Xue Yao, containing his excitement, asked softly, “Why are you so sad, Your Highness? The Eldest Prince has promised to help us.”
Consort Xi took a deep breath, turned to look at Xue Yao, and chuckled through her tears. “I’m just too overjoyed. My heart has been in suspense all this time. For the first time, I feel at ease.”
Only now did Xue Yao heave a sigh of relief, showing an excited expression. “The Eldest Prince really has a plan. His Highness is much more thoughtful than I expected!”
Consort Xi nodded repeatedly, her eyes filled with admiration. “He truly showed me what it means to be a wise ruler. He’s both scholarly and skilled in martial arts, with a strategic mind, and handsome to boot. If I had a reliable son like that, maybe I wouldn’t need to compete for favor myself. I really don’t know how the Empress raised such a son…”
Thinking about her own child who did nothing but eat and sleep, and then looking at other people’s sons, Consort Xi felt envious to the point of tears.
Xue Yao could only awkwardly smile. If only you can see the abilities of your son when he grows up, you’d know what it means to be both scholarly and skilled in martial arts!
In Emperor Linan’s harem, you, Consort Xi, are the most outstanding in bearing children!
Giving birth to this son is like having an army at your command!
The Seventh Prince’s obesity is temporary, and even handsome people have a period of development. Take a look at your genetic beauty, there’s absolutely no need to be discouraged!
The Seventh Prince was a child prodigy by nature, and his unique emotional disorder caused a lack of self-awareness, giving him a naturally objective advantage in analyzing things with a calm, big-picture perspective. This allowed him to consistently rise above human weaknesses and maximize his own interests.
Of course, due to his excessive calm and objectivity, Prince Ning lacked a sense of humanity. He treated almost everyone as pawns to manipulate, willing to sacrifice those who might affect the ultimate outcome without a hint of remorse. This earned him a reputation for being ruthless and cold-blooded.
It could be said that there were both pros and cons to this.
As the novel approached its end, there was a segment about Prince Ning’s daily life that Xue Yao vividly remembered.
At that time, Prince Ning had already subdued the Wokou pirates, boosted maritime trade, and brought Great Qi to its zenith.
Amid the prosperity of a peaceful and prosperous populace, the imperial palace celebrated Consort Xi’s birthday, who had now become the Empress Dowager.
This part of the plot, originally intended to be a scene of Long Aotian’s happy and contented life just before the conclusion, was marred by Consort Xi’s dissatisfaction with the formalized way his son celebrated birthdays.
She asked the Emperor, “Your Majesty, what more do you lack? You have everything you should.”
The Emperor didn’t understand her meaning and stated that he was content.
Consort Xi choked up and explained that she initially thought that if the Emperor eliminated the influence of Consort Tong’s faction, he would be happy. Later, she believed that if the Emperor stabilized the court, he would be happy. Then she thought that if the Emperor eradicated the Wokou pirates, he would be happy. But she had been waiting and waiting, and that day never came.
The Emperor was no longer the Old Seventh she knew from the past.
She was afraid she wouldn’t live long enough to see her son as he used to be.
The Emperor was quite puzzled, stating that he wasn’t unhappy. He flashed a typical charming smile to the Empress Dowager, reassuring her not to worry too much. However, secretly, he might have thought that menopausal women can be quite terrifying.
But the Empress Dowager insisted that her son had changed, and the more she talked about it, the sadder she became. She even refused to attend the birthday celebration, saying she didn’t want to see the Emperor and wanted to return to the Qingqiong Hall to wait for her son.
This situation was getting inexplicably heated and was on the verge of becoming a royal joke. Desperate, the Emperor, disregarding his dignity, pulled the Empress Dowager into a gentle embrace, pouting and coaxing her. “I’m afraid of losing tonight’s mung bean cake. Let me tell you a story, Your Highness.” [he was using the self-address of emperors here]
The Empress Dowager turned to look, and to her surprise, the Emperor had a mischievous smile on his face, reminiscent of his childhood. The Empress Dowager laughed, and she then happily joined the birthday celebration.
In reality, at that time, the Emperor could no longer perceive the Empress Dowager’s emotions. He relied on his extraordinary memory to recreate his childhood mannerisms to cheer up the Empress Dowager.
The Emperor could no longer respond to emotions like an ordinary person. He had become a completely cold-blooded weapon.
A mother always understands her child the best. From the time of the Road to Shu incident, Consort Xi noticed her son’s transformation. She watched in alarm as her son gradually turned into someone unstoppable and ice-cold after the Emperor’s death and the Crown Prince’s demise.
However, in the end, Consort Xi was comforted by her son’s remarkable acting. She could consider her life well-lived.
When Xue Yao reached the ending, it wasn’t the satisfaction of witnessing the highly intelligent and strategic male protagonist at the helm, but rather a subtle sense of melancholy.
Looking back on Prince Ning’s ending while being in the midst of it all, it felt like an absolute nightmare!
When he closed his eyes, he could recall the chubby cub running towards him, laughing and asking for a hug, with the bright sun shining in the background.
Xue Yao took a deep breath, thankful that this time they had a reliable Eldest Prince taking charge of things.
If things went smoothly, the chubby cub wouldn’t have to grow up amid cold mockery, just sipping on milk, taking naps, and occasionally climbing a small artificial hill…
In that case, would Long Aotian be overindulgent with him?
No, Xue Yao had to make sure the chubby cub grew up as a diligent and hardworking good baby, free from unnecessary stimuli.
There would be a chance to give the little one’s chubby tummy a poke and see if it could unblock whatever those “Ren and Du Meridians” were.
Five days before the start of autumn, the imperial cabinet had submitted their proposed plans for the Road to Shu construction project, but they hadn’t received any instructions from the Emperor.
For such a massive project, they needed to wait for the Directorate of Astronomy to choose an auspicious date and issue an edict to set a specific groundbreaking date.
Strangely, the cabinet had already dispatched their tasks, but the Directorate of Astronomy hadn’t delivered the results of their celestial observations for two days, leaving the Emperor impatient.
The cabinet was urging the Directorate of Astronomy, and the Directorate of Ceremonial was doing the same. The Ministry of Works, waiting eagerly for the allocation of funds, was becoming as desperate as the Mong Fu Shek.
One day after the morning court session, the Directorate of Astronomy’s supervisor, Qin Zhaoxuan, bypassed the imperial cabinet and directly sought an audience with the Emperor. He claimed that he had been observing celestial omens day and night and had discovered a dire portent, which required him to convey a celestial decree to the Son of Heaven—
It was inadvisable to break ground on a large scale in the northwest direction, as it might lead to “heavenly stones of retribution” falling, serving as a warning from the heavens. If one insisted on reckless construction, it could even incite a rebellion.
The Emperor had been eagerly awaiting the start of construction, but instead, he received this unwelcome news.
However, he managed to keep his composure and didn’t directly roll up his sleeves to fight with his official. Instead, he calmly called in several deputy directors from the Directorate of Astronomy to inquire about the matter.
These deputy directors dared not pour cold water on the Emperor, but it wasn’t appropriate to openly defy their superior either. They all meekly stated that the auspicious date for the Road to Shu project had always been the responsibility of Master Qin personally, and they were not aware of the specific details.
Typically, officials who were so defiant of the imperial will would face serious consequences on the spot.
However, the Directorate of Astronomy officials held a special status as “semi-divine officials” and enjoyed various privileges. There were established leniency guidelines for those who transgressed the law. This was to prevent the Emperor from disregarding celestial warnings and abusing imperial authority.
Therefore, the Emperor couldn’t directly express his displeasure. Instead, he summoned Dong Zhongrui, the deputy advocate for the Road to Shu project, and tasked him with confronting the Directorate of Astronomy.
Upon hearing that Directorate of Astronomy officials had advised against the Road to Shu project, Dong Zhongrui was furious, and he rushed to the Yangxin Hall. He lashed out at Qin Zhaoxuan for his negligence.
“His Majesty entrusted you with selecting an auspicious date, not deciding whether we should proceed or not. Now, you’ve extended your reach into the imperial cabinet. Why don’t you take on the role of the Minister of Works as well, and dictate what to construct and when? Let everything be under your contorl!”
Dong Zhongrui was known for his impulsive nature, but his words and actions were always sincerely aimed at the Emperor’s best interests. That was why the Emperor never asked him to temper his behavior.
Objectively speaking, he wasn’t a treacherous official. From the beginning, the Road to Shu project had been his idea, meant both as a deterrent to the feudal prince and to facilitate trade with the Shu province.
This matter, aimed at consolidating imperial authority and benefiting the people, was all preparation for the new policy. It naturally couldn’t tolerate interference from celestial officials.
Qin Zhaoxuan remained unfazed and didn’t even look at Dong Zhongrui. He turned towards the Emperor and replied, “I was merely observing the celestial omens while selecting an auspicious date. It was unintentional that I came across an unfavorable omen regarding this construction project. It’s precisely because I couldn’t find an auspicious date for commencing the work that I’ve come to report to Your Majesty.”
“The Road to Shu project is a matter of national benefit, and there’s no question of it going against heavenly will. I believe you’re being manipulated by treacherous individuals, trying to obstruct this project!” Dong Zhongrui didn’t mince his words and wanted to remove this thorn from his side. “You, a dense-headed individual, have you accepted favors from others in secret?”
Qin Zhaoxuan smiled faintly and replied, “If you wish to accuse me, you won’t be short of reasons. A mere life of mine is of little consequence. If Master Dong wants it, feel free to take it. However, I am committed to the welfare of our ruler and won’t withhold information for the sake of my own life. Moreover, there’s no opposition within the court regarding the Road to Shu project. Who would offer me incentives to deliberately obstruct it? If Master Dong is skeptical, you need only wait for some time, and there will surely be an omen of ‘heavenly stones of retribution’ in the Shu region, confirming my divination results.”
“What heavenly stones of retribution? You’re fearmongering! I suspect you might not be manipulated by anyone within the court, but rather—” Dong Zhongrui’s eyes revealed a murderous intent, implying that Qin Zhaoxuan might be colluding with the feudal prince of Shu.
The Emperor understood immediately, but instead of getting angry, he stood up with a benevolent smile, walked over to Qin Zhaoxuan, and said, “Beloved Minister, you’ve been observing celestial omens tirelessly for days. It’s been quite a strain. Starting today, you will have half a month off for recuperation. During this time, the duties of the Director will be temporarily taken over by Qiao Song.”
After saying this, the Emperor turned to look at Qiao Song, and ordered with a stern face, “Within two days, you must confirm whether Director Qin’s statements are accurate and promptly report the results of the celestial observations to me.”
With the Emperor’s clear stance, Qiao Song would naturally deny Qin Zhaoxuan’s observations.
If Qin Zhaoxuan were proven to be guilty of deceiving the Emperor, his punishment would likely involve not just a simple beating but a severe flogging.
The Eldest Prince had initially thought that even if Father Emperor was displeased, he would at least wait to see whether this so-called “heavenly stones of retribution” would come true. He didn’t expect the Emperor to act directly against Master Qin.
In such circumstances, it was unwise to publicly defend someone. The Eldest Prince arranged for people to spread rumors about the “heavenly stones of retribution” in the common folk. Whether Father Emperor would become more restrained was something he could only leave to fate.
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