Chapter 567.1: Title of Honor

The officials present were no fools; if they couldn't read the emperor’s mind even now, then they might as well resign their posts. Thus, many voices clamored to agree with whatever Li Qitian had just said.

Color drained out of the faces of those who’d followed Imperial Scribe Gu in censuring Pang Xiao. They could see their lives flash before their eyes as the tables had turned, and they would be the ones sentenced today.

Indeed, Li Qitian rebuked them bitingly, “As subjects, thou art to relieve Our daily worries and lessen Our troubles. We already turn a blind eye to your incompetence, so how dare you scheme to falsely incriminate a loyal subject?!

“If We had believed your slander and beguiling words today, wouldn’t We have become a despotic tyrant who practices treachery against a pillar of the nation?! What kind of picture are you trying to paint of Us?? All of you should be harshly punished!”

He fully unleashed all of the wrath that had been brewing during this time. No one present could recall when Li Qitian had ever been in such an incandescent rage. Imperial dignity wasn't for the faint hearted; everyone was deathly afraid that they would be dragged in from the sidelines.

Even those who’d remained neutral in this matter were overawed by the emperor’s fury, to say nothing of those trembling and shaking on the ground like Imperial Scribe Gu and the others.

Seeing that Li Qitian meant to have others shoulder the blame for his actions so he could remove himself from the situation, Pang Xiao immediately stepped forward with a bow.

“Please quell your anger, Your Majesty. Imperial Scribe Gu’s duties are indeed thus. He must censure the target of whoever he finds fault with and he has performed his obligations admiringly.

“Their actions today must be a result of misunderstandings that others have purposefully orchestrated for them. They are conscientious and dutiful, though they have been made a fool of by others, that is no crime. Please be angry no longer, Your Majesty.”

Many of the officials congregated in the hall regarded these actions with surprise. They’d thought that with Pang Xiao’s overbearing personality, he’d seize every opportunity for revenge. Who would’ve thought that this harbinger of doom, one who killed without blinking, would be soft hearted at times? He was begging for mercy on behalf of those who’d just criticized him!

However, those in the know understood full well what was at play here. Pang Xiao was hardly being benevolent or gracious. He just wanted those imperial officials to experience the difference between how he treated them and what sort of attitude Li Qitian showed them.

If it hadn’t been for the emperor’s express authorization, they would’ve never dared censure the Faithful Prince of the First Rank. They’d followed Li Qitian’s orders, but would now be dragged down to the dungeons for their loyalty, and the only one to plead for leniency on their behalf was the one they were just attacking!

Such a contrast was apparent to even outsiders, much less the players caught in the middle of everything.

Li Qitian felt the same way and inwardly cursed Pang Xiao for being a sanctimonious pig putting on a show. However, there was nothing he could do to change public perception. None of his preparations had borne fruit and he was now deathly afraid of Pang Xiao erupting on the spot. He had to grin and bear it even if he couldn’t, so as to not have matters spiral out of control.

“Forget it, We shall defer to the Faithful Prince of the First Rank,” Li Qitian sighed. “But all of you would do well to remember that you cannot sow discord between Us and Our subjects in the future. It is only the fourth year since the founding of the Great Zhou dynasty, and what is most crucial is everyone’s wholehearted dedication to improving the livelihoods of the people. You are not to waste time and energy on internal struggles. Heed well the lessons of Northern Ji.

“It was due to the Northern Ji court not being of one heart, rampant corruption, and wasteful extravagance that induced the people to rise up for justice. The remembrance of past deeds is the best teacher for the future, and we must take to heart what we’ve learned from Northern Ji.”

The officials bowed in unison at the lecture. “Your Majesty is noble and wise!”

Li Qitian heaved a long sigh of relief to see the situation stabilize. Thank goodness he hadn’t provoked Pang Xiao to unredeemable straits. Things would rapidly take a turn for the worse if the prince’s berserk nature came out to play.

Another round of frustration and suspicion chased each other in Li Qitian’s heart when he thought of Ji Zeyu confined to the Valiant Tigers barracks. Ji Zeyu was no incompetent buffoon; he wouldn't have dominated the north otherwise and the Tatars wouldn't shake with fear whenever they heard of his title.

Li Qitian had sent Li Guanwen to probe the prince consort a few days ago and had witnessed his perfect control of the troops then. Why had he suddenly become indisposed when the time came to make use of him?

He wouldn't believe anyone who told him that Ji Zeyu hadn't done this on purpose.

His mind flitting rapidly from thought to thought, Li Qitian had already made up his mind to harshly punish Ji Zeyu. The man would pay for ruining his plans and making him lose so much face!

Thinking back to Qin Yining’s words earlier, Li Qitian seized this perfect opportunity to change the subject. “Faithful Princess Consort of the First Rank, you will continue to answer Our question from earlier.”

Qin Yining had kept a close eye on everything and seen Li Qitian’s attitude undergo a complete change after a few people made their reports to him. She immediately understood that these must be the results of her husband’s preparations. Now that the emperor had changed the subject, she knew that they had defused the crisis!

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