Chapter 385 - Prince Rong Would Have Thoughts Of Rebellion
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As they had predicted, those in the Capital had already gotten wind of the commotion in Shanhuai County. Although Qi Zhen Emperor had not resumed regular court proceedings, his condition was much improved and he had his head eunuch deliver the claims and reports submitted by various officials to his own private chambers. When he found out about the incident at Shanhuai County, he slammed that report furiously into the ground and swept everything on his table to the floor.
The officials who tagged along stood divided on opposite sides, all of them hanging their heads in silence. It was out of character, but even Jing Yi stood aside obediently; nobody dared to further aggravate the angry tiger.
“Ridiculous, a Prince getting himself into such trouble so soon after leaving the Capital!” It was more about his own damaged image - how shameful for a Prince to be robbed and ambushed by bandits!
Everybody present kept mum.
Qi Zhen Emperor’s fury was difficult to placate, his gaze as cold as an icicle. Lord Liu of the MInistry of Personnel hesitated, before finally paying his respects as he asked, “Your Majesty, Prince Rong has ordered to strip the Shanhuai County Governor of his post and has handed this official this task. May this official ask for Your Majesty’s instructions?” His voice was steady, but it could not completely mask his nerves.
Qi Zhen Emperor scoffed, dissatisfied. “Instructions? What instructions? For something like this to happen in Shanhuai County, of course the Shanhuai County Governor needs to take responsibility for it. Do what you have to do. If you really don’t know how to punish him, then just consult the Great Lin Law Book!”
Thud! Another report on the desk fell victim to an angry swipe.
Lord Liu shook. “Un… Understood.” He hung his head even lower as he moved back into line. Nobody else dared to come forward after witnessing Lord Liu’s attempt.
Jing Yi had a frown on his calm face, but he was smirking inside. He swept a glance across the room and took a step forward, “Please calm down, Imperial Father. It’s unexpected for Jing Rong to be attacked by bandits. Although he was indeed in the wrong for not reporting this to the courts before attacking the mountain, it’s lucky that nobody was seriously hurt.”
Nobody was seriously hurt? Qi Zhen Emperor’s expression was unreadable, “So, according to you, this Emperor shouldn’t punish him, but instead reward him?”
“This Son only feels that it’s not unexpected for Jing Rong to take action accordingly when something unexpected happens, especially during his journey to Yufu County for his investigation of the relief silvers. Since he was attacked, leading troops to take down those bandits isn’t completely unreasonable.”
Was the sun going to rise from the West? How rare it was for Jing Yi to plead on Jing Rong’s behalf! Qi Zhen Emperor had a dark expression on his face and chose not to reply Jing Yi, instead staring at the report that he had just flung onto the ground, secretly contemplating something.
To his officials and subordinates, Qi Zhen Emperor was at the angriest that they had ever seen. What they could not understand was, why? They didn’t lose a single imperial soldier and Gaoshan was conquered - why was he still furious? The old sayings were right - the Emperor’s heart is more difficult to fathom than the weather!
A eunuch bowed as he entered at that moment, “Your Majesty, Lord Qin has requested an audience.”
Qin Shiyu? That old man had not been involved in politics for an eon. He had difficulty walking, so for him to make a trip here, it was definitely not just for a leisurely cup of tea. He must have heard some rumour, and entered the palace about Jing Rong’s matter. Qi Zhen Emperor scoffed, but he could not possibly reject him. “Let him enter.”
The eunuch bowed and did as he was told. Qin Shiyu had an obvious limp, dragging one foot behind him as he made his way in. The entire journey was only a few steps, but it took him several minutes before he reached the centre of the chamber. He raised his hands in respect and bowed. “This official pays his respects to Your Majesty.”
“Lord Qin doesn’t need to bother with the formalities.”
“Many thanks to Your Majesty.”
Qi Zhen Emperor gestured at his remaining officials. “The rest of you can leave.”
They bowed before leaving one after the other. “This official takes his leave.” It was their golden opportunity for escape!
Jing Yi surveyed Qin Shiyu; he was secretly weighing up something, but did not voice any opinion, only paying his respects towards Qi Zhen Emperor, “This Son takes his leave.” Jing Yi left and the remaining eunuchs were also chased off by Qi Zhen Emperor. Only Qin Shiyu remained.
“This Emperor has heard that Lord Qin’s condition has flared up recently; why aren’t you resting at home?”
Qin Shiyu bowed humbly. “This official’s leg has been a longstanding problem - it’s no big trouble.”
“Then is your purpose today just visiting this Emperor? Or do you have another objective?”
Another objective? These were severe words! Qin Shiyu bowed deeper reflexively, raising his hands up, “This official wouldn’t dare. I heard that Prince Rong exterminated several bandits in Shanhuai County and eliminated several hundred of the Gaoshan Gang members. I was going to enter the palace, and so thought to understand the case better whilst I was here.”
“Then are you clear now?”
“This official knows that none of the villagers around Shanhuai County were hurt during this incident. The Gaoshan Gang has always been troubling the court; Prince Rong has instead done the court and our Great Lin a favour this time round.”
What a glib tongue! Heaping praise after praise onto Jing Rong. What could he do? Qin Shiyu was always straightforward. Hmph! Qi Zhen Emperor rolled his eyes, “Then according to Lord Qin, Jing Rong should be rewarded?” His tone was cold!
Qin Shiyu hung his head wordlessly.
Qi Zhen Emperor gave an icy laugh, “I’m sure Lord Qin didn’t come all this way just to say this, no? Since this Emperor has already gotten rid of the others, just speak your mind; spit it out.”
Qin Shiyu straightened his back a little, his hands still by his side respectfully. “This official is aware of Your Majesty’s concerns, and has entered the palace today to help relieve some of it.”
“Your Majesty is worried that… Prince Rong would have thoughts of rebellion.”
Ugh! Qin Shiyu, oh Qin Shiyu! You really are daring! He did point out Qi Zhen Emperor’s worry immediately, with pinpoint precision. Qi Zhen Emperor was neither shocked nor worried, but narrowed his eyes as he listened on.
“Instead of reporting this extermination of the bandit camp to the Capital, Prince Rong went to borrow three thousand troops from Marquis Kang in Jing Province. When Marquis Kang was still serving the government, he did not have much interaction with Prince Rong, so why would he be willing to lend Prince Rong his army? Hence, Your Majesty’s concerns aren’t unfounded. But, although the Marquis has not since asked after the affairs of the government, this official knows that Marquis Kang has always been aware of the misdoings of the bandits in Shanhuai County, and has mentioned wanting to get rid of them for good several times. Therefore, isn’t it reasonable for the Marquis to agree to Prince Rong’s request this time?”
When put this way, it did sound valid! When Marquis Kang had still been involved in politics, he did bring up the extermination of those bandits, but his proposal was shot down by Qi Zhen Emperor himself - Shanhuai County was situated at a strategic location in the Great Lin, and it was unwise to deploy troops unnecessarily. As time passed and his dissatisfaction grew, Marquis Kang eventually hung up his official robes and left the court and the Capital for good!
Qin Shiyu continued, “Your Majesty has a better grasp of Prince Rong’s character than this official does; I don’t think that he would have thoughts of rebellion, or privately entice others or Marquis Kang to join his faction. The bigger his move, the more attention he draws; even if Prince Rong were muddled, he wouldn’t have borrowed Marquis Kang’s troops to draw Your Majesty’s suspicion.”
Qi Zhen Emperor’s concerns had reduced significantly by this point. He spoke quietly, “After what Lord Qin has shared, it seems like this Emperor has thought too much of it.”
“Your Majesty should consider this as well - Jing Province was the closest in distance to Shanhuai County. If Prince Rong had submitted a report to the Capital and waited for the troops to be readied, it would take too much time; time that the situation then couldn’t afford. Since it was an urgent matter, Prince Rong could only pay Marquis Kang a visit to borrow the forces he needed. What’s more, the men lost from this attack were all Kang’s men - hasn’t Your Majesty been worried all these years about the army in Marquis Kang’s hands? Prince Rong has not only rid the government of the pest that was Gaoshan Village, but also reduced Marquis Kang’s military power - for the government, for Your Majesty, this is a win-win situation. Hence, Prince Rong shouldn’t be penalised, he instead deserves to be rewarded.”
Every word was as precise as a dagger, but Qin Shiyu spoke as if none of it mattered at all.
ChouFleur Rants Corner
Politics in this chapter... Qin Shiyu seems to be a very useful ally!
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