Hoping everyone is staying safe from COVID-19! I am currently practicing social distancing, and everyone is required to be in self-quarantine as there is a required shelter in place lockdown. All my university classes have moved online, but it seems that professors are doubling the workload. I’m working through as much as I can, and am excited to announce that Lang Ya Scribe and I are working together to hopefully collaborate and get more chapters out to everyone!
Chapter 114: Resentment
As the first frost began to settle in, the required statistics of each province’s autumn harvests were slowly being received by the court. Due to the summer and spring drought, many province officials reported disasters, with some places having locust plagues resulting in not a single grain being harvested. Famine refugees scattered everywhere begging for food, and the situation was very serious. Prince Yu, in order to boost his reputation, announced that he would be cutting down on personal spendings, and donated thirty thousand pieces of silver to improve the conditions for the citizens, in addition to the Ministry of Revenue’s own disaster relief fund. He won widespread praise for his actions. Prince Jing on the other hand, never had a wealthy background and was also providing for a large group of orphans in his army–Consort Jing was unable to provide assistance in this aspect either, and thus Prince Jing seemed less generous and paled in comparison.
Right at this time, there was a robbery and homicide case of a convoy in the Fu Province, which alerted the Ministry of Justice to investigate. In the end, the case was solved, as they recovered the stolen property, arrested the robbers, and successfully closed the case. Originally, this was neither an overly small or large manner, and the most that the Ministry of Justice needed to do was to report on the case. However, unexpectedly, it was discovered that the convoy was escorting a routine gift given to Prince Yu by the Magistrate of the Yue Province, totaling no less than five thousand pieces of gold. The Yue Province was one of the provinces most affected by the disaster, and many citizens had starved to death while awaiting governmental aid. When interrogated, the arrested robbers stated that they were indignant over such happenings, and thus put their own lives in jeopardy in an attempt to steal the goods and redistribute them to citizens in need. This news spread, and the people of the Yue Province pled to reduce the punishment of the robbers, raising an uproar of criticism which caused Prince Yu’s name to become thoroughly disgraced. He made multiple statements declaring that he had absolutely no knowledge of the gifts coming from the Yue Province and had never received any gifts in the past either. Nevertheless, no matter how much he tried to prove his innocence, it is difficult to say how many court officials would believe that the Yue Province never sent gifts in the past, yet would randomly send gifts in a year of incredible hardship.
Due to such a scandal, although the Emperor never explicitly blamed Prince Yu, Prince Yu was asked to distance himself from the situation due to potential conflicts of interest. He was banned from any involvement in organizing disaster relief and aid, and the duty was reassigned to Prince Jing instead. Prince Jing was already good friends with Shen Zhui, a civil official at the Ministry of Revenue, and the two cooperated tacitly, feeling unrestrained when communicating with one another. Since both were extremely principled and self-disciplined, they quickly took control of the situation by executing or discharging some officials who were continuously acting in accordance with past practices. Although you could not say that they handled the situation perfectly from start to end, compared to past years where only thirty percent of the silver sent for disaster aid was distributed to the citizens, it was like night and day. Shen Zhui was a hard worker who preferred firsthand opportunities and thus couldn’t stand to sit around in the capital city. He requested to be sent to the disaster-stricken areas to ensure that there were no riots, minimal deaths, and a safe winter, so that when spring came around, there would be successful farming. Prince Jing exchanged letters with him on a daily basis, and spent much of his time searching for other possibilities for the people to restore their livelihoods as soon as possible. Although Prince Jing was not as knowledgeable in this respect, Mei Changsu had been in the Jianghu for more than ten years, and had great expertise regarding the living conditions of the citizens since many of his subordinates had once struggled as lower-class citizens. He gave some suggestions to Prince Jing to discuss with Shen Zhui, who after his on-site investigations, agreed with much of Prince Jing’s proposals, and only added a few thoughts before reporting back to the Emperor.
In previous years, the occurrence of major disasters was prone to leading to riots, because the citizens were in need of food and clothing, and also because they had nothing else to do–the disasters caused them to be unable to prepare for spring plowing. Because of this, they were in such despair that even the slightest stimuli could lead to extreme chaos, becoming extremely problematic for the royal court and government every year. The memorial to the throne* written by Prince Jing and Shen Zhui needed to provide a solution to this specific issue, and covered many other articles as well. The main purpose was to allow the victims of the disasters to recover, and based on the situation in each province, provide support and arrange for the citizens to take up other work in the meantime. For example, Wei Province is near a waterfront and rich in narrow-leaf cattails, which can be woven into aprons, tea strainers, straw mats, and other goods. After being shipped into the capital city, it became extremely popular, just as goods from other province’s newly discovered, supplemental industries were too. At the same time, while the weather was still warm for another month, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce coordinated new construction of roads and bridges, dredging of rivers, and reclamation of mines which allowed victims who did not master craftsmanship to have a basic income. In some of the warmer provinces where there was no snow, once construction began, they could continue working until spring. Seeds for spring plowing would be allocated by the government to each disaster-stricken area, and farmers who did not have any seeds could collect some. They were exempt from all taxes for the year, and if the following year turned out to be a plentiful harvest, the costs for the grain seeds would be added to the taxes, without any additional fees. With all of this, victims benefitted much more than they had in previous years, while the court spent less money as well. The majority of citizens had jobs, and although not all were completely self-sufficient, it was better than living on the streets, starving, begging for food, or hopelessly waiting for the government to take action. It was evident that if the government officials had a flexible mindset and could come up with suitable solutions, the suffering from any disaster could be greatly alleviated.
The implementation of the memorial, after being approved by the Emperor, yielded great results. Not only did it eliminate the chaos that normally accompanies disasters, but the state treasury also did not suffer any major losses, and it rectified the behavior of local officials by setting precedents as well. Prince Jing established an image of being able to lead troops on the battlefield and manage state affairs off the battlefield. Shen Zhui became increasingly well known and held more prestige in the courts too. Though Prince Yu tried to find fault with them multiple times, he was unable to succeed.
At the end of the year, the Imperial Astronomer reported that there was scarlet light reflected on the Emperor Star*, showing unlucky signs in the horoscopes. The Emperor wrote an imperial decree stating that because the Crown Prince was unvirtuous, and the heavens had issued a warning, he is deposed as Crown Prince and will thereafter be Prince Xian. He was ordered to move out of the capital city to the Xian province. At the same time, Prince Jing was bestowed two more pearls, and became a seven-pearl qin prince, just as Prince Yu was.
When this decree was officially released, Prince Yu, who was one step ahead and had already received the news, was absolutely furious and threw a fit, smashing everything possible within his study. Even his most beloved pot of orchids was not spared. No one dared to even step near the storm inside, but Qin Banruo, who had not been seen around for a while, had the courage to stand in the corner of the room, watching the enraged Prince Yu.
When Prince Yu had vented out the majority of anger, the lady from the Crimson Sleeve House smiled coldly, saying, “It is said that ‘to obtain the qilin prodigy, is to obtain the world.’ The Lang Ya Hall was not wrong at all!”
Her words were like a sharp knife that cut deeply into Prince Yu’s heart. He whipped around with his eyes deep red, glaring at Qin Banruo while angrily asking, “What do you mean?”
Qin Banruo’s eyes were dark, cold like ice, and she raised her delicate chin, clenching her teeth as she spoke, “Last autumn, when Mister Mei of Jiangzuo first entered the capital, what was the position of your highness, and what was the position of Prince Jing? A year has passed now, and now what position is your highness in, and what position is Prince Jing in? When you compare the changes in the two positions, isn’t it obvious, who ended up obtaining the qilin prodigy?”
Prince Yu took a few abrupt steps back, and fell into the chair behind him. He had rising suspicions when Jingyan was crowned a qin prince in September, but had been hesitant and indecisive. With Qin Banruo pointing out the truth in such a direct manner, he suddenly felt his blood pounding, and wished to crush everything in front of him into dust.
“Your highness, don’t hope for a fantasy anymore. Prince Jing has obtained Mei Changsu, and I have already confirmed this. Your highness, do you really want me to give you evidence?” Qin Banruo purposefully tried to distress him by saying this, and seeing him lower his head in dejection, laughed coldly, continuing, “Speaking of this Chief, he is really quite amazing. He’s decisive, bold, and a good teacher. Without his help, how could Prince Jing ever reach the status he has today? Even the situation in the inner palace has changed, Noble Consort Yue has lost her position, and Consort Jing has risen. She has been quiet in the palace for so many years, who had ever given her an extra thought? But who knew that once they began to rise in status, she would be so difficult to deal with. I’m sure that the Princess Consort has told you all of this already.”
Prince Yu clenched his teeth, but did not deny it.
In great contrast to the pretentious Noble Consort Yue, Consort Jing was like a delicate river. Whether it was discrete or direct, no means seemed to ever work on her. She was never overly-sensitive or suspicious, didn’t care for attention or wealth, and didn’t try to win the support of others. She was meticulous in her etiquette, and only thought about how to serve the Emperor so that he was happy and comfortable, and never spoke a single word more than necessary. If the Emperor rewarded her, she would accept it, and when he didn’t, she would never feel resentful or ask for any. If you treated her well, she would be respectful in return, and if you tried to put her in difficult positions, she would accept the hardship. In short, she was like a ball of cotton, impossible to crush or flatten, and if you tried to punch it, you could not damage it at all. It wasn’t nearly as difficult to deal with Noble Consort Yue for ten years as it was to deal with Consort Jing in this short time period.
“It was I who underestimated this mother and son.” Prince Yu sighed a long breath and continued, “ I thought it was a sheep, but it ended up being two wolves. But it is too early for me to admit defeat. If I can get rid of the Crown Prince, I can tear down Prince Jing too.”
“To know that your highness has such ambition, Banruo greatly admires this. But Mei Changsu is inconceivably insidious, and if we are unable to defeat the Jiangzuo Alliance, I’m afraid we will not be able to tear down Prince Jing…”
Prince Yu glanced at her and responded, “To defeat them, is much easier said than done. Your Crimson Sleeve House has fallen to such circumstances, wouldn’t you say that they defeated you instead?”
His words hit Qin Banruo’s weak spot, and a look of resentment and contempt washed over her charming face, saying “If we are speaking of this one round, then I have lost. But it is not important if I lose, what is crucial is that your highness’ grand future cannot be ruined by an unworthy man. Your highness, don’t you want revenge for being deceived and used?”
Her words provoked something within him, and Prince Yu was infuriated once again, slamming his palm onto the table in front of him so fiercely that a prickly feeling ran through the palm of his hand. After venting out his anger through this motion, he calmed down quite a bit, and although he still felt repressed and sighed repeatedly, he finally clenched his teeth and spoke, “You want to focus your attention on Mei Changsu, and seek revenge for destroying your Crimson Sleeve House, this I understand. If you are talking about resentment, I hate him even more than you do. But with the current situation, it is no longer what it was like a year ago. At that time, if we could dispose of Mei Changsu, then Prince Jing would have no way to achieve any success. Now, my seventh younger brother is one with high aspirations and a promising future, and this is not due to the effort of Mei Changsu alone. I cannot repeat my past mistakes, and continue to let him rise in power. Anyways, no matter how powerful Mei Changsu is, he is nothing more than an advisor, and the greatest weakness in an advisor, is always in the one he is advising. Rather than try to get rid of Mei Changsu, it is much better to take on the person who makes up the foundation. Without someone to advise, no matter what kind of qilin prodigy he is, he is still just a stray dog without an owner.”
When Prince Yu finished his sentence, the ruthlessness in his voice was so far beyond what can be described, that even Qin Banruo felt secretly startled. She quickly composed herself and asked, “Where does your highness intend to start?”
“Where?” Prince Yu paced around his disheveled room, coldly laughed and said, “I may not know Mei Changsu’s weakness, but Prince Jing’s weakness is incredibly obvious. What is the root cause of why he has never been favored these past ten years? Is it that he was stupid, couldn’t take responsibility for his duties, or that he made some mistake? It is not because of any of these things. On the contrary, he’s had many military achievements and worked very hard, yet Father Emperor has never rewarded him. The reason he doesn’t reward him… Standing in between the father and son, where neither is willing to make any concessions, is that old case…”
Qin Banruo narrowed her eyes and slowly nodded, replying, “That’s right, Prince Jing’s sore spot is indeed the Chiyan Army and Prince Qi’s old treason case.”
“The number of times that Prince Jing has defiantly contradicted Father Emperor for those traitors, I can’t even count anymore. It is just that after more than ten years of sending him out of the capital city, Father Emperor is also getting old, and doesn’t bother to argue anymore. Prince Jing has also learned to behave himself, and it is as if they both turned the page, hiding it deep in their hearts, with neither bringing it up. But just because they don’t bring it up, doesn’t represent that it has been forgotten or forgiven. As long as we find a good opportunity to bring it up, it is still the deepest rift between the two of them…”
“This is indeed a good entry point,” Qin Banruo agreed, “But, your highness, when you rip off this old scab once again, you cannot do so arbitrarily. You must rip it off all at once, and the bloodier it is, the better.”
“It is exactly because of this, that we cannot do it arbitrarily, that I have yet to figure out how to do so. How nice would it be if a good opportunity were to arise now…”
Qin Banruo’s dark, crystal-like eyes looked around for a moment, then she slowly said, “As for an opportunity… Banruo has yet to think of one, but there is a person, who your highness should try and join forces with.”
“The head officer of the Xuanjing Bureau, Xia Jiang.”
“Xia Jiang?” Prince Yu frowned slightly, continuing, “I’m afraid that is not possible… The Xuanjing Bureau’s past tradition has always been to stay out of the fight for the throne. Back when the Crown Prince and I fought like a raging fire, he never…”
“The past is the past,” Qin Banruo quickly interrupted, “It is not a surprise that he never intervened between you and the Crown Prince, but now your opponent is Prince Jing. Xia Jiang is not at all ignorant, and is very clear about his relationship with the old Chiyan case. He still, of course, clearly remembers who led the investigation of the Chiyan Army’s case. To put it lightly, it is a disagreement, but to put it more seriously, it is resentment. Your highness, do you think Xia Jiang will just turn a blind eye and allow Prince Jing to slowly move closer and closer towards the Emperor’s throne? No matter how loyal he is, he still has to consider his own future, right?”
Qin Banruo’s words had the exact effect on Prince Yu as she had intended, and Prince Yu uncontrollably rubbed his hands in anticipation, looking quite excited. To Prince Yu, whose strength had suffered great losses, the influence Xia Jiang had on the Emperor and the undercover scouts the Xuanjing Bureau controlled would be like receiving a gift of charcoal on a freezing snow day.
“Your highness,” Qin Banruo smiled charmingly, bowing in courtesy while suggesting, “If we would like to covertly test whether or not Xia Jiang has intentions of joining forces with us, then I could assist this process. I have a senior sister*, who is Xia Jiang’s old acquaintance…”
Memorial to the throne: A formal essay/report written to the emperor regarding formal affairs. More about this here.
Emperor Star: a star representing the Emperor in Purple Star Astrology, a form of fortune-telling in ancient China which delineates fate. More about this here.
Senior sister – an older female within an apprenticeship program under the same master/teacher.
I feel like you don’t really get the full details from the drama (which I’ve watched about 20 times, no exaggeration), and read the novel through at least 5, but still missed out the details of Prince Jing and Shen Zhui working together so well. The in-depth description of how hard the two of them worked together is quite touching.
To be honest, I never really felt too much pity for Prince Yu, but at the same time, I understand how bad it is to be deceived in such a way. He placed so much trust and faith in Mei Changsu, and it turns out that he was using him all this time. Although he did many things wrong, I still understand why he ended up doing some of the things he did. Imagine being lied to by someone you trusted so much.
Anyways, I’m excited to start to get into some more action-heavy chapters, and see if I will discover any other details in the upcoming chapters!
This chapter was more tedious to translate in the beginning, but another chapter is complete!