Chapter 119: Palace Debate
Yet Fei Liu’s waiting did not result in the arrival of Prince Jing, as Xiao Jingyan was not even in his prefecture. Although the bloody showdown at the west city gate was not known in advance by the Capital Patrol, it’s not as if they would continue to be blind to the happenings after. Before long, Prince Jing received the report stating that the Xuanjing Bureau had escorted a serious criminal, and was ambushed at the city gates. Due to the fact that the Xuanjing Bureau was directly under imperial jurisdiction and followed its own independent procedures, oftentimes, relevant ministries and departments of the court were not notified of their operations. Originally, Prince Jing didn’t think much of the happenings and only notified Capital Patrol Commander Ouyang to keep a careful watch. If the Xuanjing Bureau intended to round up all criminals who participated in the ambush, unless they had an openly announced imperial decree, they would be required to coordinate with the Capital Patrol to set up the operation and avoid unnecessarily disturbing the citizens. After confirming this protocol with the commander, he went to visit his critically ill royal uncle, Prince Li. Unlike when he was once unnoticed and unfavored by the Emperor, Xiao Jingyan’s current status had now changed like day and night. When he arrived at the Prince Li Prefecture, out of the other visitors of the imperial family and members of the court, there wasn’t a single one who didn’t rush to exchange conventional greetings with him. After engaging in pointless conversations out of courtesy, it was already after noon. At this time, Ouyang Ji rushed to report that there was no communication from the Xuanjing Bureau at all, but that they didn’t begin conducting any unauthorized searches in the capital city either. It was as if they didn’t care for the escaped ambushees at all, and instead concentrated all their manpower on heavily guarding the newly imprisoned criminal in the Xuanjing Bureau.
At this time, Prince Jing began to raise suspicion, but after thinking carefully for a moment, he couldn’t think of any recent events that the criminal could be related to. However, there had always been a rift between himself and the Xuanjing Bureau, and knew that sending someone to inquire further would just be asking for contempt in return. In addition, the absence of a Crown Prince resulted in many ritual changes for the end of year memorial ceremony. The Emperor ordered that he be accompanied by the dual qin princes, Prince Yu and Prince Jing, on the altar. Unlike Prince Yu, Prince Jing had not been involved in the higher levels of the court for many years, and was unfamiliar with the protocol and etiquette of this regard. He invited the succeeding Minister of Rites, Liu Ji, to personally prepare him in the inner court, and was in the midst of the busiest of times. Thus, although he had many confusions, he didn’t end up investigating further, only reminding Ouyang Ji to continue searching for information before going to the inner court.
After practicing and studying etiquette for close to two hours, though Prince Jing was not in the least bit tired, Minister Liu, who was more than sixty years of age, was already breathless and worn out. He was Head Secretariat Liu Cheng’s cousin, born into a noble family, viewed with great prestige in the court, and never treated any one prince different from one another. Prince Jing had never tried to deliberately get in his favor either, but out of consideration for his frail body, used the excuse of seeking advice regarding historical decrees and regulations to allow him to sit down and rest. Unexpectedly, as the conversation went on, it ended up being a very insightful and agreeable discussion.
As a matter of fact, this is where Prince Jing had a major advantage—most court officials’ impression of Prince Jing was that he was determined and hardworking, but only knowledgeable in military affairs, not policy governance. But in reality, Prince Jing had been carefully brought up in the palace by his mother and Consort Chen as a child, and later was personally educated by his eldest brother, Prince Qi. He didn’t lack a strong foundation in this sense, only that back in the day, the spirited, willful, and brilliantly talented Chiyan Young Marshal Lin Shu had overshadowed him completely, leaving him unnoticed. The decade or so following Prince Qi’s conviction of treason, Xiao Jingyan indeed had developed extreme disgust and contempt towards the court, and was thus let loose to manage affairs outside the capital city, resulting in, to some extent, the neglection of him. But no matter what, he too was once taught by honored scholars and prestigious teachers, studying alongside Lin Shu as classmates, and performed well in his studies. If one were to judge him as simply a man of the military, they would naturally be thoroughly surprised after having a deep discussion with him.
It was not until the evening that Prince Jing left the inner court, and he happened to run into Meng Zhi outside the palace walls. He took the opportunity to ask Meng Zhi whether or not he knew who the Xuanjing Bureau had imprisoned, but Meng Zhi was completely unaware of any of the details. They only exchanged a few brief words before parting. Afterward, Prince Jing returned directly to his prefecture. Unfortunately, the second he entered his bedroom was the exact moment that Fei Liu, who had still received no response after knocking thrice, turned around to leave—they had missed one another by mere seconds. Into the night, Mei Changsu’s condition worsened, and in the end, he didn’t have the energy to send Fei Liu a fourth time, so the two were unable to meet.
Early the next morning, Prince Jing entered the palace to pay his respects and greetings. Because it was the end of the year, the imperial courts were sealed, and there were no court councils. When the princes came daily to pay their respects, they headed directly to the Wuying Hall. When Prince Jing entered, he ran into Prince Yu in front of the hall entrance, whom he had not seen in quite a while. It was unknown whether he was coincidentally lucky or the opposite*.
“Jingyan is here,” Prince Yu greeted him with a great smile, reaching out to hold Prince Jing’s hand, seeming to look like a loving elder brother. “Seeing your glowing cheeks, you must have rested well last night?”
Prince Jing had never liked engaging in feigned gestures of politeness with him, and Mei Changsu didn’t see any point in maintaining superficial relations either. Under these similar viewpoints, though Prince Jing was never disrespectful to Prince Yu, it was inevitable that he treated him indifferently. For example, at this moment, he only bowed slightly, then slowly tugged his hand away, out of Prince Yu’s grasp.
“Here, come, let’s go in together, I heard Father Emperor is very happy today.” Prince Yu had long become accustomed to his indifference, and didn’t take it to heart in the slightest, gesturing forwards as they walked into the Wuying Hall together, side by side.
At this time, there were three people in the hall. The Emperor of Liang, Xuanjing Bureau’s Head Officer, Xia Jiang, and the Imperial Guard General, Meng Zhi, who seemed to have just finished discussing some sort of affairs. One was seated on the imperial throne, forehead in his hands, and in deep contemplation, one was slowly stroking his beard with a suspiciously suppressed smile, and the other didn’t have much of an expression at all, though his face was tight and tense. As the two qin princes entered, Xia Jiang, looking at Prince Yu, nodded slightly, whereas Meng Zhi, looking at Prince Jing, furrowed his eyebrows.
“Your son wishes Father Emperor great health and prosperity.” The brothers respectfully knelt down together, paying their greetings.
“Mm, sit.” The Liang Emperor massaged his temples and slowly lifted his head, looking at the two sons who were standing in front of him. Now that they were of the same rank and had similar robes and adornments, the other similarities in appearance between the two brothers became much more prominent. They were similar in both stature and facial features, only with one being more strong and reticent, and the other more smooth and clever. For the past ten years and more, the Emperor had always favored Prince Yu, and it was only recently that he became displeased with Prince Yu’s excessive ambition, deliberately reducing special favor shown towards him, but still loving him dearly. On the other hand, Prince Jing, after regaining opportunities to capture the Emperor’s attention, acted more and more in line with his likings, and was currently right in the midst of increasing favorability. So at this time, when looking at the two, even the Emperor himself could not tell which he favored more. In his daze, he suddenly thought of Prince Qi, the son who was brilliant to the point where he had lost control over him. He felt a sharp pain in his heart, unknowing whether it was due to old age, or if Xia Jiang had recalled memories he had deliberately locked away.
“Father Emperor, what is wrong?” Prince Yu asked, expressing his concern as he stepped forwards. “Unless there was something troublesome being discussed just now? Would your son be able to share Father Emperor’s worries?”
The Emperor waved his hand, saying, “It’s New Year’s, what troubles could there be….”
“Yes,” Xia Jiang, seeing that the Emperor had only spoken half a sentence and was not intending on elaborating further, took over the conversation, continuing, “Fortune and prosperity come with a new year’s celebration, what troubles could there be? In fact, being able to capture a traitor from an old case is actually a great sign.”
“A traitor?” Prince Yu showed an expression of shock on his face. “Has there been a case of treason lately, how come I am unaware?”
Xia Jiang laughed aloud blatantly , saying, “Your highness, of course, you know about it, only that this case is not recent. It is from thirteen years ago.”
“What? Head Officer Xia, unless you are referring to…” Prince Yu responded immediately while stealing a glance at Prince Jing. Sure enough, Prince Jing had lifted his head, glaring at Xia Jiang with a burning fire in his eyes.
“Is there a second case of treason from thirteen years ago? Naturally, it is the Chiyan Army’s case.” Xia Jiang spoke in a light tone, saying, “The Chiyan Army was charged with treason and had colluded with the enemy, however, when we massacred them at Meiling, there was heavy snowfall and a windstorm. Though his majesty ordered the 17 high-ranking generals leading the rebellion to be captured, only 4 were arrested alive, 11 bodies were found, and it was unknown if the other 2 had escaped, or had their bodies obliterated beyond recognition. All these years, the Xuanjing Bureau did not dare to lose alertness regarding this matter. Fortunately, with the blessings of the heavens on the Emperor, they were unable to escape from the watch of the skies. Though 13 years have passed, we were still able to capture one of the rebels. “
“Who is it?”
Xia Jiang took a glimpse of Prince Jing from the corner of his eye, and coldly stated, “Former Chiyu Battalion Vice General, Wei Zheng.”
Prince Jing couldn’t help but clench his fists, feeling different waves of expressions flip through his chest. Yet after being repressed for the past decade, his recent experiences had changed him from the impetuous youth he once was. He gritted his teeth and lowered his gaze to hide the rising sparks in his eyes.
“Ah, this is indeed good news!” Prince Yu purposely raised his voice, sounding both sharp and shrill, “Your son congratulates Father Emperor. Even fugitives who have been on the run for over ten years can be captured, evidently showing the mighty power of our imperial administration. This Wei Zheng must be publicly executed in order to subdue any disloyal hearts. “
Xia Jiang pretended to think for a moment, then slowly agreed, stating, “Prince Yu is indeed sharp. With careful thought, this is indeed a good idea. Education is useless to those who harbor treacherous thoughts, and we must implement extreme punishments to instill fear in the hearts of the people. Traitor Wei has been at large for more than ten years, showing that he did not feel remorse in the slightest. I believe that a public execution by severing him at the waist would be suitable.”
Prince Jing had been clenching his teeth so tightly that his cheek muscles were twitching, and abruptly raised his head. Yet right as he was about to speak, Meng Zhi knelt down, saying, “Your majesty, it is currently the celebration of New Year’s and a time of national mourning. It is inadvisable to have such public shows of cruelty!”
“General Meng’s words are invalid.” Xia Jiang continued lightly, “Treason is an unpardonable crime, what does it have to do with national mourning? Be harsh on traitors and benevolent to the loyal. To follow such will result in a prosperous nation, and to go against such will result in the destruction of a nation. The treatment of the two, traitors and the loyal, must not be mixed. Isn’t that so, Prince Jing?”
He breezily tossed the conversation right towards Prince Jing, evidently trying to force him to speak. However, whatever he was to say in response, would either be words against his own heart, or disrespectful ones of defiance.
At this point, Meng Zhi felt extreme panic, and thought about making another attempt to stop him from speaking, yet was also afraid that doing so too obviously would be counterproductive. Right as he was at a loss regarding what to do next, Prince Jing had already bowed forwards, speaking out frankly and clearly, “Your son dissents.”
*Coincidentally lucky or the opposite: this has a double meaning that is more obvious to the reader than to Jingyan. The character “巧” means a coincidence, but can also mean lucky. We know that he most likely is unlucky to have run into Prince Yu, and that it really wasn’t a coincidence either since it was planned by Prince Yu. So really he was just uncoincidentally unlucky…
I can just imagine how annoyed Xiao Jingyan was, putting up a fake smile while greeting all the other fake people of the court and imperial family who are pretending to care about him only because he is now in favor of the emperor. I can visualize him rolling his eyes inside, and also trying to pull his fingers away from Prince Yu…
Also, I’d like to point out that when I read this: At this time, Prince Jing began to raise suspicion, but after thinking carefully for a moment, he couldn’t think of any recent events that the criminal could be related to. I couldn’t help but think….. Oh Prince Jing, you “carefully thought” and though you were only thinking about recent events, it’s no wonder that sometimes people call you brainless…. Think harder! And further away! When I watch the drama, I always feel bad for Jingyan when everyone in the comments writes how brainless he is, but also, maybe it is true…
Gosh, there’s really so much that I want to say about this chapter. I had a very difficult time translating the one specific paragraph about Lin Shu. I wanted to say that Lin Shu stole all the spotlight, but at the same time, I feel like that wouldn’t be quite accurate. To say he stole it would imply that he stole it from someone, and it would also feel as if Jingyan was wronged in some way or another. Although I can’t say that Jingyan never resented Lin Shu for it, I feel like overshadowed was a better term, because it implies more so that Lin Shu was just too brilliant, as opposed to saying that he “stole” something or another from Jingyan. But we know exactly how much Jingyan cares for Lin Shu, and so I chose “overshadowed” instead.
Also, the original text of “study alongside” translates directly to something more like studied alongside under the same window, which is too lengthy and wordy, but does a better job painting a picture in my head of the two of them, sitting side by side under a window and discussing their studies, laughing and joking sometimes, but then being serious at others. *Sigh*
Dissent vs objects: At the end, I also had difficulty since the most obvious way to translate this is “Your son objects.” However, I feel like dissent means that you hold a different opinion as opposed to objects where it is more like I disagree with you directly. I feel like the word “object” comes across too strongly and more disrespectful, as opposed to dissent. The original word means “to hold a difference in opinion” as opposed to blatant disagreement, so I used it instead of object, since Prince Jing is still *trying* to be respectful to his father.
I’m excited that I just recently picked up a new major so I’ll be pursuing a dual degree, but that means that I will be putting this project to the side for a while. Thank you everyone for your patience 🙂