Chapter 222: Showing Weakness
Jun Huang and Qi Yun engaged in a pleasant conversation. Her days were numbered She would take this opportunity to teach Qi Yun about ruling a country before she lost the ability to talk.
Nan Xun rode at the front of the troop. Hearing the bits and pieces of their conversation prompted him to turn back and get into the coach. Inside, Qi Yun held a teacup lazily in one hand and supported his head with the other.
“Remember, you must prioritize the people once you become the emperor,” Jun Huang said seriously, her expression solemn. “Let their wellbeing guide your decisions. Do not let your selfish desires take over.”
Qi Yun asked some questions every once in a while. “Northern Qi may appear to be a powerful and prosperous country, but underneath the surface lay a slowly rotting core. What does the gentleman think we should do?”
He had brought up an important issue. She straightened up and glanced at Nan Xun before putting her half-full cup on the table. “That’s why our efforts to eliminate corruption has to be restrained so as to conserve the foundation of the state. Even if you take the throne, you mustn’t rule with an iron grip. Some of the problems you’ll face exist in the very structure of the country. It requires a delicate approach to completely weed out the ailment. The issue didn’t come into existence overnight; naturally, the resolution will take more than a day. You have to take one step at a time.”
“Now let’s talk about the people. It may seem like they are leading a good life, but if you take a closer look, you’ll realize that there are still many people who can’t afford to feed themselves in this country, and some officials are creating disorder and chaos with no regard for human lives. Once you become the emperor, you have to change this culture of exploitation. If you turn a blind eye to the growing corruption like the current emperor, it’s going to eat Northern Qi from inside out.”
Jun Huang was blunt. She didn’t care if her words would make Qi Yun uncomfortable.
He did find her comments a little offensive. She had boldly criticized the emperor like it was nothing! But he couldn’t deny the truth in her words.
He nodded after a pause. “You’re right. I’ll keep that in mind.”
Jun Huang smiled. She could tell he was unhappy with her criticism, but he was willing to listen. That was how an emperor should be. “Good advice is often difficult to listen to. You have to remember that. Judge the officials in the court carefully and don’t let people with malicious intentions deceive you.”
He nodded agreeably.
She sighed and continued, “There are still pure-hearted officials in the court. You have to learn to identify them. That’s crucial to being a good leader.”
“Then you have to keep people’s interests in mind. Droughts are common in the north, which often lead to unrests. People there riot because they don’t have a choice. You have to pay attention and prepare enough food for the north to prevent an uproar. The locals will be grateful to you and consider you a great leader.”
“That’s not a solution to the root cause, though. The yearly income of Northern Qi isn’t that high. If we continue to support the north out of our pocket, the treasury is going to be depleted.”
Qi Yun thought back to the times where there’s a shortage of funds. It was an urgent issue that needed to be addressed.
Jun Huang nodded. “It’s not impossible to solve the issue once and for all. First, the palace must cut down unnecessary expenses and avoid promoting a culture of excessive consumption. Second… In regions suitable for agriculture, the ownership of the lands should be transferred to the people. Then there will be more harvest, creating more tax revenue.”
“Of course, it’s easier said than done. If you want to achieve any of what I said, it’ll take decades.” Jun Huang turned to Qi Yun. “The emperor must look beyond the present and consider the wellbeing of future generations. Do you understand?”
Qi Yun chewed over her words and nodded seriously. “I understand. I won’t disappoint you. I’m going to create a prosperous country for the people.”
Jun Huang smiled. She turned to Nan Xun, who had been watching her since he came in, and got a smile in return.
Her conversation with Qi Yun made Nan Xun even more impressed by her. He knew she was someone with great talent, but he didn’t expect to hear about such well thought-out policies from her mouth. Regarding issues that officials had debated for decades, she was able to provide satisfactory solutions with only a few words. It was impossible to not be impressed by her. It was a shame that Western Que had been destroyed, making it so that she couldn’t fulfil her potential.
If Western Que still stood, though, perhaps she wouldn’t have grown so quickly. There were two sides to everything He knew that Jun Huang would rather be born into a regular family living a regular life. What she had ever wanted was for her family to be safe and happy.
While they were marching towards Eastern Wu, the enemy state got wind of Northern Qi’s invasion. Eastern Wu’s court fell into chaos once they acquired the evidence and eyewitness statements. The scholar and military officials argued among themselves.
The emperor lashed out at the officials for not proposing a solution when he asked for one. The third prince scoffed at the silent room. Before the emperor lost his temper, he took a step forward and knelt down with his hands cupped. “We have to admit we were the one who provoked this conflict. They’re justified to fight back in retribution. It’s only natural that they’ll deploy their army. That said, we can’t let them step all over us.”
The prince did make a lot of sense. The emperor nodded and let him continue.
“This son volunteers to negotiate with Northern Qi,” said the third prince. “But I hope Royal Father can give me the full authority to make decisions.”
That got a reaction from the officials. They looked up at the emperor, expecting him to deny the prince’s request. But to their surprise, the emperor nodded after a brief pause.
“We aren’t ready for a war yet,” the emperor said once he was alone with the prince. “We have to wait until autumn. That’s when we’ll strike. Keep them lax and complacent at the moment. Submit to their will for the time being so that they won’t consider us a threat. Then we’ll be able to catch them off guard.”
The third prince knew the reasoning behind the emperor’s words. Eastern Wu had invaded Western Que not too long ago. If they fought Northern Qi headon, they would suffer a bitter defeat. It was better to feign weakness to relax Northern Qi’s guard. Then they could strike back and triumph over Northern Qi.
“Rest assured, Royal Father, this son will put Eastern Wu as my top priority. I won’t disappoint you.“
The emperor nodded. “I’ll let you take full charge,” he added. “Do whatever you need to do. You may use material compensation as a leverage. Don’t surrender immediately. Those from Northern Qi are no fool. You have to convince them that we’re truly helpless against their invasion. Understand?”
The emperor was still worried. “I’ll have the state preceptor accompany you. If there’s anything you’re not certain about, ask him for advice. Don’t let your pride get to you.”
Jun Huang and the troop arrived at the border. To be on the safe side, they made camp on Northern Qi ground and didn’t immediately crossed into Eastern Wu’s territory. The atmosphere in the camp was relaxed.
Qi Chen had ordered Jun Huang to report to him about the current situation. Therefore, once her tent was set up, she asked for a set of writing instruments and started writing the letter with Qi Yun and Nan Xun present.
“Prince Nan Xun and the fourth prince have been polite but distant with each other. They seem to be mere acquaintance. On our way, we haven’t run into any troubles. Eastern Wu must have been in a state of panic.”
She put down the writing brush. Once the ink was dry, she handed the letter to Qi Yun like she had nothing to hide. Qi Yun had been peeking at the letter while she was writing. Her openness made him hesitant to take the letter.
Nan Xun glanced at him with a smirk and took the letter from Jun Huang. After a brief examination, he folded it and handed it back to her.
Qi Yun stood up to explain. “It’s not that I doubt the gentleman. I’m just...”
Jun Huang put the letter into an envelope, glancing at Qi Yun with cool eyes. She nodded after a pause. “This gentleman understands. It’s a good thing for Your Highness to be careful. This gentleman isn’t angry.‘
She soon found the messenger Qi Chen had assigned her. He’d assumed the identity of a regular soldier. He therefore couldn’t get close enough to her tent to see Qi Yun and Nan Xun. He didn’t know Jun Huang had written the letter with the two of them present. Besides, Qi Chen had put a lot of trust in her; his people naturally would follow his lead.
She handed the letter to the messenger while the others weren’t looking. He snuck a glance at her before rushing away and disappearing. She let out a sigh and made her way back to the camp.
Before she could reach the camp, Nan Xun showed up to stop her.
“What’s wrong?” Jun Huang asked.
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