Chapter 30.1: Cock-fighting

The Emperor entered the Empress Palace quietly. All the palace maids and internal attendants immediately bowed to greet him. They were about to announce his arrival when he made a motion to shush them as he walked to the front of where the Empress was lying. He gazed upon her thin face and subconsciously reached out a hand to brush a few stray strands off her face.

Zhangsun was not in deep sleep and was immediately jolted awake. She smiled as she saw the Emperor and immediately made a move to get up and greet him.

The Emperor stopped her. “Lie down. Are you feeling better?”

“After seeing Your Majesty, my illness has gotten a lot better.” Zhangsun still insisted on sitting up. “My body is sore from lying down for too long. I want to sit up and talk to you.”

The Emperor personally helped her up. “Why is only Wei Song here to serve you? Where is Prince Han, Prince Qin and Xinnan? The Crown Prince is the worst. His own mother has fallen ill, yet he is not here to serve you?"

“The Crown Prince has been here numerous times. I am the one that asked him to leave. When I see him, I think of how he made you angry and his presence irritates me. If Your Majesty does not want to forgive him, I will also not forgive him.”

The Emperor sighed, “The Crown Prince has really made a mistake this time.”

Zhangsun replied, “I heard that Sun Tan was the one that told you about Chen Ji.”

“Empress, you cannot blame Sun Tan. What he did was right.” The Emperor believed that as the one leading the country, he had to be wise and let his subjects speak honestly.

“I do not blame Sun Tan. Similar to Your Majesty, I am thankful for Sun Tan. He is the Crown Prince’s father-in-law, why would he hurt the Crown Prince? When the younger generation makes a mistake, it is the older generation that feels the pain and wishes to hit him so that the pain will wake him. Sun Tan reported the issue with Chen Ji to Your Majesty so that you would reprimand the Crown Prince like any father would to their son. Sun Tan does this only because he sees the Crown Prince as his own family.” Zhangsun spoke sincerely.

“You think the same way as I do.” The Emperor was comforted.

Empress Zhangsun looked at the Emperor’s expression. “Then the Crown Prince...what does Your Majesty intend…”

“I don’t intend to do anything. Chengqian is after all, our eldest son. He has always abided by the rules and is outstanding in every way. He was simply bewitched this time. Young people are curious and may meet with unhealthy influences. It is normal for them to momentarily be led astray. I won’t think of changing the country’s future leader just because of a small mistake that he made.” Things that he said in a fit of anger shall just be like the passing wind. 

Empress Zhangsun breathed a sigh of relief. “Your Majesty is sincerely compassionate about the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince will understand your intentions. You can’t really blame the Crown Prince. I heard that while the Crown Princess is pregnant, she is unable to attend to the Crown Prince, yet she doesn’t allow the Crown Prince to go near any other women in the Eastern Palace. The Crown Prince must be very lonely.”

The Emperor frowned. “Sun Tan’s daughter is actually so jealous?”

“She is a pregnant woman after all. Let her be for now. After she gives birth, I will teach her properly and make sure she knows how to be a proper wife.” Only her daughter-in-law could make mistakes, not her son. Especially not her Crown Prince.

“Actually, now that I think about it, it is also my fault that the Crown Prince made a mistake. I have been too busy handling matters regarding the country and have neglected his education.”

“Yes, I was about to bring this up to Your Majesty. The Crown Prince should have a few more honest and frank officials with him.”

“After the Imperial Examination ends, I will help him choose a few to really help him.”

“On behalf of the Crown Prince, thank you Your Majesty.”

“If you want to thank me, you should quickly get better. I cannot do without my Empress.”

Empress Zhangsun sunk into the Emperor’s embrace. Now, everything was good. The wave had finally passed.

 

After looking through numerous lists of names, Du Ning still failed to find his name and sighed internally. His dreams of marrying a Fu Yin was dashed. 

Those that passed all felt pity for him. They all knew that he never held back when he wrote and guessed that he had probably touched one of the examiner’s nerves. Hence, his literary talent had gone to waste.

All of a sudden, a horse galloped over quickly. An internal attendant jumped off and took a roll from his sleeve. He pasted this list over the one on the board, changing the list. This time, Du Ning’s name was on it and he actually achieved the highest grade.

Du Ning did not know the examiners had graded his examination slip as the lowest grade, but his teacher, Zhan Xuanzhi, had retrieved it and narrated it personally to the Emperor. The Emperor looked highly upon his boldness in his writing and changed his grade to the highest one, adding it to the Hanlin Imperial Academy. However, to Du Ning, Fu Yin's smile was more exciting than seeing his name on the golden list and getting everyone’s congratulations.

 

On this day, the Emperor signalled Du Ning, a new talent, out to walk in the Imperial Garden along with the Crown Prince and Prince Han. His spirits were high as he liked Du Ning’s answers. However, he noticed that the Crown Prince kept yawning and frowned.

Prince Han could sense this and tried to draw his attention away. “Imperial Father, managing the country will never be my duty. However, I plan to listen to Imperial Father and cultivate myself.”

The Emperor was curious. “Oh? How do you intend to cultivate yourself?”

“Imperial Father, you know me. With my fat body, I can hardly ride and shoot. I like literature and calligraphy the most. Of course, I will be reading more to cultivate myself and learning from the scholars.”

The Emperor smiled. “It is good that you can think this way.”

“I also want to write a book. Recently, I have read <<Hanshu Geography>> and Gu Yewang’s <<Land Maps>> and I was enlightened. Our Great Tang has three hundred and fifty-eight islands. We are a grand country yet there isn’t a complete book of our land. I hope to create a book depicting the geography of our Great Tang and record every island...no, not every island, but I want to detail and record even the county, their look, names, mountains, cities, historic interest and even the major events that have occurred.”

“No wonder you are my son! When you finally finish the book, you must let me read it.”

“However, with just me alone, I won’t be able to do it. I need a few talented people. I am worried that just using my title as Prince Han to gather talent will cause the Imperial Censor to write and impeach me for privately gathering talent. I will not be able to bear this crime.”

“Since you dare to bring this up in front of me, I can see that you do not harbour ill-intentions and have nothing to hide. Okay, I will free you from worries. Prince Han, heed my decree.”

Prince Han kneeled.

“I permit you to leave your prefecture and set up a literature school to gather students.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty!”

Everyone’s expression was delighted. Only the Crown Prince lifted his hand to cover his mouth as he yawned. The Emperor could not stand it anymore and looked annoyed. “Crown Prince, if you are tired, you can return to the Eastern Palace first.”

The Crown Prince was stunned. “Imperial Father, I wish to accompany Imperial Father…”

“I have so many people accompanying me, you won’t make a difference. You can leave.” The Emperor was extremely disappointed in him.

The Crown Prince left dejectedly.

After strolling through the Imperial Garden, the Emperor headed straight to Lizheng Palace, intending to ask the Empress to remind the Crown Prince not to be dispirited. However, the palace was quiet and only Wei Song came out to greet him.

The Emperor was concerned. “Is the Empress feeling better?”

Wei Song replied, “Her Majesty has been sleeping a lot better and her coughing has reduced. She is currently sleeping soundly.”

The Emperor did not want to disrupt the Empress and turned to leave. All of a sudden, he saw the Crown Prince curled up on the couch by the side of the window. He was also asleep, and looked extremely exhausted.

Wei Song explained, “Your Majesty, for the past few days, His Highness has been handling the official matters given to him by Your Majesty. In his spare time, he stayed at Lizheng Palace and put his all into serving Her Majesty. Her Majesty asked him to return but he did not want to. He has hardly slept and ate. Look how skinny he has become.”

Warmth appeared in the Emperor’s eyes and he walked over to help cover the Crown Prince with a blanket. No wonder the Crown Prince kept yawning. He had misunderstood him.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter