Chapter 176 – Sin
Crown Prince Palace
The Crown Prince palace was very majestic. The Crown Prince used to live within the main palace before this. After some time, the Emperor decided that the Crown Prince was old enough, and thus ordered people to build a palace for him. The Crown Prince’s palace was by far the most glorious and majestic out of all the palaces ever built. The walls were tall in order to maintain some privacy and there were many guards standing outside the door.
The Grand Princess stopped outside the palace, and several serving maids stepped up to help her off the ox-cart. The sky was dark and gloomy, as if it was about to rain any moment. A pair of eunuchs were carrying lanterns, waiting for them. Seeing that she had arrived, they immediately welcomed her, “This way!”
They headed east before moving west. Following the long and winding corridors, they walked up ahead. Standing in front of every door, was a serving maid, as if the entire palace had roused to welcome the Grand Princess. Occasionally, there would be eunuchs walking by, always with quick and light footsteps.
When they reached a hall, a pair of eunuchs stood before the door, each of them holding onto a horsetail whisk, their eyes looking straight.
When the Grand Princess walked in, she noticed that the curtains were all drawn, and the floor was clean and shiny. She looked at the Crown Prince, who was reading some documents. He read the documents once, and then twice. He seemed to be extremely vexed, as if there was something he couldn’t comprehend. He was clearly deep in thought.
Beside the Crown Prince, a concubine was waiting on the Crown Prince, standing by his side. She looked somewhat pale, her body was thin and frail. The Crown Prince turned to look at her, and noticed that her skin was cold. He then took a coat and draped it over her.
The eunuch at the door then announced, “The Grand Princess has arrived.”
Hearing these words, the Crown Prince hurriedly placed his documents aside before standing up to greet her, “Aunt, you’ve finally arrived.”
“Your call seemed so urgent, how could I not come? Please tell me, what’s the matter?” The Grand Princess strolled into the large hall, as a serving maid took her coat from her and hung it on a rack.
“All of you, leave us. I wish to speak to my aunt alone.” The Crown Prince held his tongue, and waited until everyone around has left.
“My concubine, you don’t have to leave. Come and read the letter out to my aunt.” The Crown Prince took the hand of his concubine, seeing that she was about to leave with everyone else.
Everyone to his left and right walked out before the Crown Prince returned to his hair chair and sat down. The concubine sat down beside him as they invited the Grand Princess to take a seat as well.
The Grand Princess looked up and noticed that the Crown Prince looked extremely handsome and charming. He had a refined and cultured look on his face. She then averted her gaze to the concubine, who was holding onto the documents and was about to read them.
“Obligation isn’t more important than propriety. Propriety isn’t more important than duty. Duty isn’t more important than birthright. Birthright and talents cannot be stolen or lent. Since the decorum of a monarch and his subject is blurred in this situation, we have to turn to wisdom in order to emerge victorious.”
The Grand Princess sat by the side as she listened to the Imperial Concubine. Hearing these words, she couldn’t help but nod her head in agreement. She completely agreed with what she heard. Birthrights cannot be passed to someone who didn’t have it.
The concubine then continued reading, “Since the Crown Prince has already been given the birth rights to succeed the throne, he already managed to differentiate who the rightful monarch is, and who the subjects are. In doing so, the hierarchy has already been established. Who should dare question it?”
“The Emperor’s main worry is that although it seems peaceful now, there are thorns beneath that layer of peace. The Emperor is delighted that King Lu has a stable army, ready to dispel any rebels by force should the need arise. He’s worried that the Crown Prince doesn’t wield that sort of power.”
“In order to maintain peace, a wise ruler would control the external factors, and watch his inside people even more closely.”
“When it comes to suppressing the enemy, he has to pick out the weakest link and press down hard. A wise ruler wouldn’t exterminate everyone seeking to usurp and rebel against him. Instead, he would select and pick out the most significant points and deal with those accordingly. Doing so would win the admiration of everyone around, and prove that he is a worthy ruler.”
The concubine finished reading it in one breath, and the Crown Prince’s eyes sparkled after listening to it. Although he had finished reading the contents of the documents prior, just hearing it once more filled him with a sense of hope and delight.
The Grand Princess who was seated at the side nodded her head once more at the conclusion of the reading, “Where did the Crown Prince find such a wise advisor. These words are indeed true and wise.”
“Since you are the Crown Prince, you already have the status and rights to claim the throne. Should you start plating men all around in order to control the officials and ministers within the Imperial Court so as to win approval, this might upset the Emperor himself. Hence, you shouldn’t take this undignified and dishonest road. Instead, you should take advantage of your status as the rightful heir to gain the throne.”
“Aunt, you’ve always taken my side in such matters. It’s just that King Lu is gradually gaining ground, and pushing me to a corner. I’ve requested your presence the moment I was presented with this strategy. Although I’ve got a plan, I’m still worried about the uncertain future ahead.”
“In future, King Lu’s might and power will only increase. Even if I have the birthright and status, what can I do. Even my own brother is scheming to kill me and sabotage my ascension. After rewarding Pei Zi Yun by granting his family a title, King Lu stepped up and tried to murder him. I’m afraid this might make my subjects lose the confidence.”
The Crown Prince frowned as he spoke. The Crown Prince could understand that King Lu might not have taken a liking to Pei Zi Yun. But for King Lu to kill the man he had just rewarded, and to be able to do nothing about it, might cause his men and subjects to lose confidence in him. However, if he were to retaliate, this might cause problems. That was the entire issue at hand.
“Crown Prince, you’ve read the entire document. What’s meant by birthrights? The Emperor was chosen by the heaven, and you are his rightful heir. As long as you don’t commit any heinous crimes, and don’t besmirch your reputation, all the loyal subjects of the court would support and defend your claim. That’s the custom of our family, and the rules handed down all through history.”
“Interrupting the natural flow of succession would cause disasters for years to come.”
“Your claim to the throne, even if you don’t seek it, it has already been dictated by the heaven ardently.” The Grand Princess held onto the piece of paper and spoke out.
The Crown Prince was somewhat taken aback. At this point after listening to the Grand Princess’s words he was clearly happy. He then spoke to his concubine, “See, inviting my aunt over was the right move. What my aunt says really put me at ease.”
“Aunt, I still have my doubts. How should I show that my claim is superior? And at the same time not let my subjects lose confidence in me, and also not to let the Emperor worry.” The Crown Prince clasped his hands together and pleaded with the Grand Princess to tell him.
The Grand Princess looked at her nephew and pondered for some time before speaking, “The worry of the Emperor is that although we’re having peace times, there are some thorns beneath all these layers of grass, that a period of instability is brewing.”
“But the documents stated very clearly. This is the biggest worry to the Emperor. Crown Prince, as long as you can intervene in this matter, and show off your talents you would succeed. However, if you fail to manage to military and generals well in the process, you would lose your life, and not even the Emperor would be able to rescue you.”
“Aunt, how should I do that?” The Crown Prince asked after mumbling to himself.
“Firstly, you have to choose a method of attack. Allow everyone under the heaven, including the Emperor know your methods. From then, he would no longer think that you’re soft and easy to bully. King Lu has won the affection of the Emperor since he has three heirs to his name, and has his own steadfast military strategies which could undermine any rebels to the crown. He would be able to suppress any insurgents and calm any instability that might arise.”
“King Lu is very influential and has a strong military might. Not only does the Emperor tolerate it, he even uses it to suppress areas which have a tendency of rebelling. Hence, King Lu was able to use this dependence to his advantage, and thus incurred the jealousy of his other Prince brothers.”
“At this point, King Lu’s biggest weakness and flaw is that he’s fighting unrightfully for the throne. In doing this, he’s made many enemies since this goes against the rules. All of you have to do is get hold of an incriminating rumor, and make that a strong case against him. Doing this would make the Emperor lose confidence in King Lu, and that’s when he will lose his powers. When that happens, you can attack him.”
“Aunt, whatever you said I understand. But if I attack too hard, I will suffer the retribution from attacking a member of the Royal family as well. And yet if I attack with too little force, it might not make a difference. I don’t know where to draw the line. In the past, I’ve never thought of this. Now, I’m even more lost than ever.” The Crown Prince mumbled before sighing.
“Which is why you have to attack not too hard, but not too little as well. If you fail to get this right, you might be sentenced to death for attacking too hard. When you do make an attempt on his life, he will struggle and do everything he can to survive. Besides, King Lu is a son of the Emperor. He will feel heartache at the end of it. That’s why in order to successfully defeat King Lu, You have to show of your capabilities and make him feel assured at your ability to run the country.”
The Grand Princess then stood up and took several steps, “This document gave clear and precise instructions to follow. If you attack with too much strength, you might be tried for regicide and executed for it. As long as you ensure that you act outside of those boundaries, and your actions don’t warrant the death sentence for yourself, that’s the right action to take. You might be thinking of condemning King Lu for overstepping his rights by attempting to usurp your throne, and wish to penalize him for that.”
“Being guilty of such a crime wouldn’t affect King Lu much. However, he would clearly be breaching country’s customs and regulation. Because of that, the Emperor would have to punish him as well, since that would be the right thing to do.”
“The Emperor would most probably give him a scolding. It might just be a scolding, but all the officials and subjects would think and know that King Lu overstepped his boundaries. That in itself would turn many people away from him and towards yourself. To weaken his position, and strengthen your own. The Crown Prince would be more stable and receive more support.”
Hearing the Grand Princess’s words, the Crown Prince’s own hand was trembling in delight. He took several steps before replying, “Many thanks to aunt for your guidance.”
The Grand Princess mumbled to herself before replying, “I shan’t claim praise for guiding you, as I received inspiration from the document.”
“This document is concise, accurate and extremely sensible. It can be said that with this document, you have nothing to fear. If the person who wrote this document is an advisor to our nation, I suggest the Crown Prince use him more frequently. If it’s possible, you should hurry and recruit him for your own use. That should be the way. “
When the Crown Prince heard this, he forced a laugh, “Aunt, it’s not that I’m turning talent away, or that I’m too fussy. It’s that this person is hard to recruit. Actually, you know him too.”
When the Grand Princess heard this, she pondered for a long time, as though wondering who could it be. After some time, she gave off a shocked expression before asking, “Are you speaking of Pei Zi Yun? It’s just that the last I heard of him, he killed many of King Lu’s men, and went into hiding, isn’t that the case?”
“Yes, I know that his current whereabouts remain unknown. It was my Imperial Concubine that sought him out.” The Crown Prince paused for sometime before sighing. If only he had extended a hand to protect him back then. Maybe he would even be under his service right now. If he were to show up again, things might not be good at this point for him.
The Grand Princess eyed the Imperial Concubine standing beside the Crown Prince, with certain thoughts in her head, ‘Looks like this concubine isn’t as meek as I thought her to be.’
It was this Imperial Concubine who gave an heir to the Crown Prince. It can even be said that the Crown Prince was clearly on the losing end of the battle, and this woman gave him a lifeline and a fighting chance to win the throne. Clearly, this wasn’t a proper thing to say. Hence, she spoke several words before bidding farewell.
As he escorted the Grand Princess, the Crown Prince carried a smile on his face, and yet he seemed to be laden with burdens, and no longer looked as happy as he did earlier. It almost seemed like he was smiling and frowning at the same time.
The Imperial Concubine noticed that there was a change in the expression of the Crown Prince. She had stepped out of the comfort zone to acquire this document, and thought to herself that it would be a long time before she meddled this way again. She then spoke to, “Crown Prince, the rain outside is large, and it’s getting cold. Please come in!”
“Ai, the document you acquired is very good!” The Crown Prince stared into the rain, unmoving, “We’re so near, and yet so far. He’s so talented, but I can’t employ him under my counsel!”
At this point, the Crown Prince seemed to have made up his mind. He then called for an official to come. The Crown Prince whispered several words into his years. Thee official then acknowledged, “Yes, Crown Prince. I will make sure to do everything as you instructed.”
“Go ahead!” The Crown Prince instructed before turning back into the palace.
The Grand Princess followed the corridors and arrived at the gate, where she noticed the pitter patter of rain. A serving maid was holding onto an umbrella, escorting her onto the ox-cart. Just before she boarded it, she turned around to look at the palace once more. The courtyard of the palace had several trees planted, and it looked very lush and green, like life was thriving within the palace.
The sound of the rain was beating down upon the oxcart, and the Grand Princess didn’t seem like she minded .She retrieved a book and held it in her hands. After some time, she mumbled to herself, “Martial arts, Dao arts, military strategies, poems, essays, stories. You are good in all of those. Why would heaven choose to lead us to such a genius at this point in time?”
“Since the heaven arranged it, could this be a blessing or trouble?” The Grand Princess then ordered, “Go back to the Imperial Palace.”
The ox-cart turned around to the palace. Just after travelling for a kilometer or two, the Grand Princess felt a heavy burden upon her shoulders, and was anxious. An image of her own daughter floated into her eyes, her young and adorable daughter was teary eyed. After a long while, she sighed, “Such a sin.”
“Halt. Return to my mansion.” The Grand Princess’s voice rang out. The ox-cart driver had no reason to question her, and pulled on his ropes as he made a turn back.
The Grand Princess drew the curtain apart, and looked at the greenery outside her window, deep in thought.