Chapter 124: Finale (Part I)
T/N: Finale has 3 parts.
P.S. Happy birthday yifu ^^ (16th day of first lunar month = Feb 9, 2020)
With such favorable time and place, do you not remember what happened twenty years ago?
This was the first time that Emperor Long An, who always had an ambiguous attitude, expressed his stand clearly at the great court meeting. He didn’t disclose half a word with anyone in advance. Not only the Fang Qin Party, but the Grand Council’s members were also in confusion.
Jiang Chong glanced at Yan Wang vaguely and said to himself, “Did the emperor take the wrong medicine?”
Chang Geng’s face did not show any difference. He stepped forward and plainly flattered him. Although he played politics, he was naturally born with a kind of immortal spirit of someone living in a remote forest. Even the posture of flattering seemed to be very indifferent, not taking winning or losing to heart, as if he had completely agreed with Li Feng in advance.
At that time, someone’s face changed.
Li Feng knew in his heart that Yan Wang intended to borrow his influence, the civil and martial of the court all have their own plans, but it didn’t matter, if he could build a ladder for Yan Wang, he could build a ladder for anyone.
This time, Li Feng used two political orders to push the Grand Council to the top of the storm. He wanted to see what those people who always brought up the Red Imperial Edict and Iron Plaque could do to Yan Wang, who had become a monk and only called ‘Royal Father’ once in all his life.
This day, the capital was doomed to a sleepless night.
In the Grand Council, Jiang Chong whispered to Chang Geng, “Your Highness, what should we do? Do we continue according to the original plan?”
Chang Geng said without hesitation, “Strike while the iron is hot.”
Jiang Chong took a deep look at Chang Geng and asked, “Your Highness, if we were too forceful, what if they use their last resort?”
Chang Geng turned to look at him and said meaningfully, “What I’m afraid of is that they don’t do it. Brother Han Shi, do you know what the most useful sentence I’ve learned in my life is?”
Jiang Chong suddenly felt incredibly frightened.
Chang Geng said, “On the battlefield, whoever doesn’t want to die, will die first.”
On his way home from the Grand Council, Chang Geng happened to run into Fang Qin’s carriage. He told Huo Dan, “Let Master Fang go first.”
After a while, Huo Dan ran back to report: “Your Highness, Lord Fang said he didn’t dare to be impolite. He has already made way.”
Chang Geng brushed aside the curtain and bowed to Fang Qin politely. They passed each other peacefully, as if they didn’t want the other to perish.
Chang Geng leaned on the carriage and thought that if he and Fang Qin were to change places, he would endure this storm. When the new nobles in the imperial court occupied the transportation finance, then pushed it when their foundation was not stable and their expansion was too fast, at that time, he would simply wait silently for Li Feng to act —— the nobles like cobwebs in the imperial court have forces everywhere. If they were willing to pursue it slowly, there would be opportunities to restore the old system after the war.
Chang Geng also knew that with Fang Qin’s nature, he must have also thought the same.
That was why even if he dragged everyone to walk on this string, he must not let him calmly wait for this opportunity.
Fang Qin watched until Yan Wang’s carriage was already far away, then ordered his family servant to continue moving. The twilight around him slowly slipped into the long night. He seemed to see the general trend of the thread, running like flowing water in front of him, and he was helpless to stop it. The ten thousand mile-long dike he stepped on was made of sand and dust. It seemed to be mighty and magnificent, but in fact, it was of no use, the boundless world was countering to him.
Back at Fang’s residence, as usual, there were already guests waiting for him. Grand Scholar Fang was no longer interested in cultivating towards immortality and seeking Tao. He was entertaining the guests in the front hall in person. As soon as Fang Qin entered, all the people present stood up and looked at him with various expressions.
Fang Qin also had an ominous premonition in his heart: “Father, what’s the matter?”
Grand Scholar Fang’s face sank like water and said, “Your yimei* was convicted of offending the queen today. She was just grounded and forbidden visits from relatives.”
*义妹, adoptive younger sister
Madame Fang had a good relationship with the emperor’s Nanny Zhao. She jokingly asked Fang Qin’s third younger brother to accept Madame Zhao as his adoptive mother. There was nothing involving Fang Qin here, but to show intimacy as a courtesy, he also called Madame Zhao’s daughter on duty in the palace ‘yimei’ in front of outsiders.
Fang Qin said in surprise: “Why?”
“Why? There is no need for any reason,” Grand Scholar Fang said slowly.”Remember that year, His Majesty also called Gu Yun ‘uncle’, having deep affection since young, but still sent him to prison simply from one word of disagreement. Let alone those of us —— the present emperor is cruel and ungrateful, truly makes people bitterly disappointed.”
Fang Qin turned his head and told his family servant, “Send a letter to Imperial Duke Zhao at once, tell him to stop playing such a childish trick, he should know better.”
As soon as he said this, everyone was in an uproar in the hall. Suddenly someone stood up and objected: “Master Fang, why are you extending your arm outside again?”
Fang Qin ignored the others, only stared at Grand Scholar Fang and said: “Father, can’t you see? His Majesty is not the former emperor, everything could only go with his will. If you let him feel that he is being persecuted, he will inevitably rebound. We are only going to eradicate the Yan Wang Party. What’s the use of picking a fight with the emperor?”
Without waiting for Grand Scholar Fang to speak, Fang Qin said sharply: “I also want to protect my third brother, but if you want to go on like this, the ones involved will not only be third brother. All of you here are all from our side, let me say a few unpleasant words: do you really think Imperial Duke Zhao had wiped his own bottom clean? If Yan Wang catches his weak point and makes use of it, then we will be even more passive!
It’s just a railway line, he did not allow it to be built, besides adding a little hindrance to Li Min, is there any real use? Gu Yun still mobilized the troops as usual, while your Foreign Affairs Mission can’t even get to the front line! What else can you do now? Will you simply cut off supplies to the frontline and sell the country?”
He was already irritated for a long time, letting it all out in these words, not even saving face for his father. The surrounding was quiet for a moment, one of them spoke up, “Then Master Fang intends to endure it?”
Fang Qin: “…”
He found that he could hardly communicate with these people, especially after Grand Scholar Fang came out of retirement again.
When fate was at its end, it’s not because of the rapid development of the outside world that everything will be exhausted. In a big country with countless noble families, if each family could have one person who could serve as a pillar — didn’t have to be many, and did not necessarily be exceptionally talented, or a master of literary and martial arts, as long as their brain was clear, self-conscious, and knew what to do and what not to do — then with the accumulation of generations, the Yan Wang Party, even with extraordinary abilities, would not be able to climb to their heads.
Fang Qin looked around and sneered. Having nothing else he could say, he left.
Grand Scholar Fang sat up with his eyes lowered, reached out his hand and stroked his beard. “My son is incompetent, how embarrassing.”
Next to him, an official no longer able to lift his eyelids from old age said in a low voice: “Second Master is brilliant, but he is still too young and vigorous in the end.”
At Fang Qin’s age, he could hardly be called ‘young and vigorous’. However, Grand Scholar Fang shook his head meaningfully: “It’s true, when Emperor Wu was in power, he was still young, had not gone through these things, and had less experience. I feel that it is not a bad thing to conceal some things from the younger generations, avoid making them worry too much.
The old brothers who pushed the former emperor to the throne are still here, go back and gather your children and grandchildren. Maybe we will still be able to carry this out… But my unfilial son is also right. Tell Imperial Duke Zhao to restrain his recent childish endeavor. If he cannot kill in one move, then why waste the effort? He would only get laughed at.”
However, Yan Wang did not give Imperial Duke Zhao the chance to restrain.
The next day, the Ling Shu Institute announced that the steam train had passed various rigorous testing and everything was ready. They sincerely asked Emperor Long An to come see it with his own eyes. Li Feng happily took the crown prince with him and rode the train for a while in person. However, before returning to the palace and waiting for the fresh excitement to pass, he received the letter urging for the railway completion from Yao Zhen, which successfully piled up the anxiety in the heart of Emperor Long An.
Piling up until the evening, when the Imperial Censorate brought the last grass to ignite the emperor’s anger.
The Imperial Censorate accused that Imperial Duke Zhao was unjust, conniving his family members to embezzle and plunder the lands from farmers at a low price.
The Canal Office and Ling Shu Institute, jointly in charge of the steam rail line, immediately followed along with a large number of people who deliberately contributed to the situation, and quickly pushed the case to the point of explosion.
The forces Yan Wang had built up through all these years exposed a corner of the iceberg, the road for career ascension that had been blocked since the later years of Emperor Wu’s rule was unclogged by him.
The reports of illegal land occupation in various places have been revealed in succession in a premeditated way, and finally implicated the problem of illegal land occupation going on in Great Liang for a long time.
At once, several bystanders watching the fun came out and asked for the whole country to be investigated —
Of course, this absurd proposal was rejected by Li Feng. Even if Li Feng wanted to display his authority to the noble families, he must untangle it one by one with each step, he could not have such a big appetite at one time.
However, Imperial Duke Zhao, the early bird, was unable to run away. He was arrested in a few days. Later implicated a large number of his family members and disciples who were riding on his coat tail. At his arrest, the onlookers even climbed up the wall to see inside. The storytellers at the Wang Nan Tower compiled a new book in two days, which was very popular.
In his first time listening to politics, the crown prince was met with such a big case. The little boy had earned a lot more knowledge. He was stunned and watched on with wide eyes, his mind had also opened a lot more.
When the court was about to be dismissed, Yan Wang, who had not been very vocal, suddenly asked, “What does Your Highness think?”
The little crown prince was well protected by Li Feng, he was innocent and did not have a calculating mind. He once ‘consulted’ his fourth uncle under Li Feng’s order. When he heard Chang Geng’s question, he blurted out without hesitation what he had been taught by others: “Han Fei* has said, ‘a ruler with no skills will be fooled by their subjects, subjects bound by no rules will run rampant.’ The stability of the country depends on the law. For people, there are four kinds: virtuous, foolish, loyal and traitorous. For matters, there are right and wrong. If the law system is unclear, it will make the party and the masses run rampant, the villains run rampant, then…the person in charge will not be able to control anymore.”
His voice was still childish, he was like a schoolboy who was picked in class to answer his teacher’s questions. He looked at Chang Geng with eyes filled with great expectations.
Chang Geng only smiled but didn’t speak. Li Feng scolded him with a straight face: “Only repeating what was in the book, what is there to be proud of. Go back and work hard. Don’t slack off.”
The crown prince did not dare to say anything, he had to answer with his head down, but his childish words had a different meaning in the ears of the others.
For those who used themselves to measure others, even if they saw a young child, they would still feel that the boy was as full of schemes, with every word laced with deep meaning such as themselves.
That night, the 11-year-old crown prince’s words spread out of the forbidden palace like wildfire. Concealing this matter from Fang Qin, Scholar Fang gathered together all the old jackals who had once helped the former emperor, splitting every little bit of the crown prince’s saliva to analyze, and understood Li Feng’s meaning.
“It’s been three generations,” Grand Scholar Fang sneered, “It’s hard to reach the grace of heaven. The gentlemen must have seen, the emperor let the crown prince listen to politics, he was determined to claim the lives of us old men.”
Another person said: “If it wasn’t for Wang Guo causing trouble, our plan would have gone properly, Yan Wang should have had his title stripped by mixing up the royal blood and be sent to a remote place by now. This bastard child who came out of nowhere dares to ride on our heads. Brother Fang, if we are not decisive, we will suffer.”
Grand Scholar Fang’s tensed features turned sharp. He looked around slowly and said in a low voice, “Would you mind writing the words in your heart into your palm.”
Many years ago, this group of ambitious conspirators once came together, showing their hands, the name of the former emperor Yuan He was written on them. At this time, they were already on their last legs, some were old and some were dead. They reunited once more to show their old hands——
“Clean up the emperor’s side*.”
“Clean up the emperor’s side.”
“Clean up the emperor’s side, the First Prince no longer has a mother.”
*the characters written on their hands were 清君侧 – Qing Jun Ce, meaning to rid the ruler’s side of traitorous subjects
“That year, when Su Wang* pretended to be ill on his way, it was thanks to you all who learned about it in advance that he wanted to go to the capital secretly and asked the First Princess for an order, capturing him in the name of ‘rebelling’ and pushed the former emperor to the throne.” Grand Scholar Fang said in a low voice, “Now you have seen this situation in the capital. How to start first and who can be of use, you gentlemen came here today, I’m sure you all have your plans.”
*Yuan He’s brother, his competition to the throne back then
Grand Scholar Fang was not hot-headed. He knew that it was impossible to move the Northern Camp without the Gu family members on their side this time. Since Liu Chong Shan’s rebellion last time, the establishment of the imperial army also underwent major adjustments. For positions above Company Commander, it must be strictly checked to confirm that their families were innocent and their military achievements were real. It put an end to some people’s loopholes. At the same time, it was divided into two parts of two-way management. They would restrain each other but do not interfere with each other. It was also necessary to strictly prevent someone in the imperial army from covering the sky and breaking the law.
However, there were advantages and disadvantages to everything. The noble families of Great Liang were divided into civil and military, there were also generals that belong to the nobility, however, most of these families have declined. Otherwise, there would not be such a scene of not having anyone of use in Yuan He years, having no choice but to let Gu Yun, a young child, to take control of the army.
The descendants of these renowned generals, born under the great shade of their ancestors, if they were incompetent in both literary and martial arts, they would enter the imperial army through the back door like Liu Chong Shan, spending years accumulating service time, then find a way to forge military merits to raise up through the ranks.
After years of co-existing, there had been a special ecology between these young soldiers and real soldiers. Both sides save face for each other, which could not only ensure combat effectiveness but also give consideration to relationship and dignity.
Unfortunately, this balance was destroyed by Li Feng after the mutiny of the imperial army.
The person in charge may think that a law they established in anger was thorough and clear. At that time, no one reminded Li Feng, who was delirious from fury, that he had blocked all the young men’s dream of promotion in the capital.
Which young master was not spoiled? Who would be willing to be a small soldier for all his life?
It’s not terrible to offend the young master. What’s important was that in the early years of the Great Liang Dynasty, military officers were more important than civil ones. The ancestors left behind one privilege — military generals were allowed to have their own family soldiers, keep some of their arms, and shelter the later generations. When in danger, they could be the last fighting force of the country. When Liu Chong Shan, Lu Chang, and others rebelled, Fang Qin had used these forces to restrain the rebels and hold them back until the Northern Camp arrived.
Grand Scholar Fang looked around and said, “Gu Yun has increased his troops to the southwest, and is also fighting in the East Sea. He does not have many troops to mobilize, at present, all his people are guarding the four regions. The Northern Camp is not allowed to enter unless called. Li Min is a man who is fishing for fame, he does not like having too many people at his side, only taking an old man or two with him wherever he goes. I heard that he has good skills in riding and archery, but he had only flailed around on the city tower several times, perhaps he would not be able to crush many nails. It’s not hard to get rid of him — I just don’t know whether you gentlemen want to carry it out ‘in the dark’ or ‘in the open’.”
Nearby, someone asked, “Dare to ask Master Fang, what is ‘in the dark’ and what is ‘in the open’?”
The scholar who trained more than half of the talented officials in the court said with his face unchanged: “If you want to be in the dark, just ask twenty or thirty of suicide soldiers to ambush on the night Li Min is on his way back from the court, stop and kill him, and erase all evidence, letting it passed by, the emperor will not be able to do anything either… If you want to be in the open, then let the emperor know who is the good general and loyal officials, who are the ones responsible for his country, how the disorderly subjects and thieves are taken down —— and who can bear the responsibility of the crown prince.”
“This… Master Fang, I’m afraid it won’t be easy. ” It was the son of the Marquis of Peace, one of the three Marquises in the capital in the old days. The old Marquis had already passed away, this person had a body full of fat and had a hard time walking. He did not go out too many times a year. His appearance was far different from the descendants of a famous general, but his mind was unexpectedly clear. At this time, he said, “Without discussing how to avoid the imperial army and the imperial guards when carrying it out, let’s say we succeed, with the emperor’s character of rather breaking than leaving things whole, will he not investigate it to the end? The hard-headed ones in Northern Camp are all dead, now they are all obedient, and will not enter without being summoned. What if in the fit of anger, the emperor really summons them? They are far away, then what about the guards inside the palace and the imperial army outside the palace? The aftereffect of Liu Chong Shan and Lu Chang’s rebellion has not passed yet, I’m afraid it’s not so easy. ”
“It isn’t like there are no places in the palace that do not have imperial guards, and there are places the imperial army can not enter. The emperor’s birthday will be in the next half a month. This year, there is good news on the front lines of Jiangnan in the East Sea. The flatterers of the Ministry of Rites will take this opportunity to propose hosting a large party, to boost morale and to pray for the country, there will be many chances,” Grand Scholar Fang replied lightly, “As for the emperor’s anger afterward…”
When he said this, his voice stopped. He laughed low and raised his narrow and slightly drooping eyelids: “Then we have to make him ‘unable to get angry’. What, do you think that if Li Min no longer exists, the emperor will let us go easily? You have heard what the crown prince said today in the morning. As a little child, what does the crown prince know about national affairs? Who taught him those words? He is only eleven years old, but whenever he opens his mouth it is always ‘no emotions involved in laws’ and ‘eliminate party and factions’. Scolding in the middle of the court, he might as well pointed to our noses and said that we are all villains. Being indecisive at this moment, do you want to wait for the crown prince to ascend the throne and give us three meters of white silk*?”
*白绫, white silk, often used in ancient times when the Emperor bestow on the guilty minister to commit suicide.
His statement was not at all ambiguous, it’s outrageous and immoral.
Grand Scholar Fang was worthy of being an old minister who had entrusted Emperor Yuan He to the throne. He was bold, his guts was large, wanting to go big as soon as he makes a move, speaking straightforwardly, “If the Emperor acts out of place, then get rid of the Emperor, if the crown prince does not obey, then use his elder brother who had lost his mother as a puppet.”
The Marquis of Peace was stunned for a long time, then stuttered to ask another fatal question: “Then…would Gu Yun let this slide?”
“The Foreign Affairs Mission is still on its way, and it has been arranged,” said Grand Scholar Fang with a low smile. “The front line, the preying enemy, the envoy, why, with such favorable time and place, do you not remember what happened twenty years ago?”
A storm was brewing in the center, but Yan Wang, the one at the center of it all still seemed to be unaware, still arrived on time every day, sparing no effort to promote his new policy.
He even happily received a letter from Gu Yun.
Gu Yun sent the letter directly to his home. It was entirely a private letter. When Huo Dan handed it to him, Chang Geng’s eyes suddenly lit up, making Commander Huo blush as red as a tomato.
“Does he have extraordinary abilities?” As Chang Geng lifted up the envelope and aimed it at the light, he carefully observed the contents of the envelope, while half-truthfully and half-falsely complained to Huo Dan, “While dealing with foreigners, he still has this kind of leisurely hobby, what am I supposed to say to him.”
There had never been a ‘mistress’ in the traditional sense in the Marquis’s manor. Uncle Huo, as the bodyguard serving by their side, had also known something vaguely. However, it was still difficult for him to adapt to this situation, especially unable to discuss the family letter from Marshal with the ‘other master’. Listening to Yan Wang’s words, he felt that his role had changed from the commander of the family guard to a nanny eager for gossip; he had to stand aside with great shame and act as a house post blushing red.
Since the war began, this was the first time Gu Yun had sent such a thick home letter to Chang Geng. For a while, he was reluctant to tear it open. He took the envelope in his hands to caress and rub repeatedly, even bringing it to the tip of his nose to take a whiff, as if he could smell the scent of the man far away, his expression dazed and entranced.
The blood on Huo Dan’s face soon seeped out of his pores, he stammered: “Your…Your Highness, you…What are you doing?”
Chang Geng glanced at him, as if he thought Huo Dan’s red face was particularly interesting, He deliberately teased him and said, “I dreamt of my yifu yesterday, waking up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep again, finally knew what was called ‘tossing and turning restlessly’. Turns out, I received his letter today. Such a coincidence, wouldn’t you say?”
Huo Dan: “…”
The two words ‘my yifu’ made him shiver. Huo Dan thought bitterly, “What is the little Marquis doing? Why is he becoming more and more outrageous! This will cause the old marquis and the princess in the afterlife to come back to life from anger.”
Chang Geng secretly smiled and was about to open the envelope with a knife. Suddenly, a Lin Yuan wooden bird came in. That day, when Liu Zhong came asking to join them, Chang Geng did not trust him entirely. He had sent two Lin Yuan Pavilion people, one in the open, the other in the dark, following him to Liangjiang. The person in the open pretended to be a Liu family’s servant boy and contacted Liu Zhong with the capital city. The one in the dark was an expert. He followed the envoys to explore all kinds of changes and sent letters to the capital city at any time.
Chang Geng hurriedly stored Gu Yun’s private letter into his arms and took