This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
Gaoluo had fierce internal conflict due to the disappearance of the prime minister. A small number of people thought that Great Feng had done it, but when they said such a thing, they were suppressed.
Could something like this that could cause an international dispute be said rashly? They had no proof. The prime minister had disappeared within the Gaoluo borders. From the evidence left on the scene, this matter was caused by the party in conflict with the prime minister. Great Feng would not be willing to take the blame.
The Feng officials paid great attention to this matter. Even the generals on the border were in a state of high alert, as though if Gaoluo dared to invade, they would counterattack.
With the borders in a tense state, the court was not much better. The cause was the Qingbei military commissioner Wei Ting accusing the Qingbei General of selling the country.
Wei Ting was of the new nobility and talented. After receiving Sima Hong’s appreciation, he was recommended to the previous emperor. Later, because Consort Wei had the previous emperor’s favour, the previous emperor also put importance on Wei Ting and promoted him all the way to Qingbei military commissioner.
Not long after his promotion, the previous emperor died from sickness. With the support of the Sima Family, Wei Ting remained stable in his position. If he hadn’t jumped out to accuse Zhao Jin, Jin Yang had not planned on touching him.
Zhao Jin was different from Wei Ting. Zhao Jin was truly from a poor family, but was a rare capable general. He became a third-rank general based on his military service and was stationed at Qingbei Prefecture.
The two did not dare to delay when they received the summons from the emperor. They hurried to travel to the capital, and reached it when it was just entering summer.
“General Zhao, please.” Before entering the palace gates, Wei Ting turned and smiled at Zhao Jin, making a gesture of invitation.
Zhao Jin had a furious and irritated expression. But at the foot of the Son of Heaven, he did not dare to speak crudely. He only took off his sword and handed it to the guard at the Vermillion Bird Gates. Then he stepped in without a look at Wei Ting.
“Ha!” Wei Ting saw this, snorted, and followed.
The two walked, one after the other. The eunuch leading the way kept his head down, not saying a word to the pair. Zhao Jin could not get a measure of the emperor’s thoughts.
He was a third-rank Anbei general, and rarely returned to the capital since being stationed at Qingbei Prefecture. He had never met the emperor alone. He did not have many connections in the capital, so he did not understand the emperor’s personality well.
He knew, compared to Wei Ting who had the support of the Sima Family, he would likely have more misfortune than good fortune on his trip this time. But even so, he needed to tell the emperor about this matter. Regardless of whether the emperor believed, at least he would have a clear conscience, and he hoped that this would not affect his family.
They all said that the emperor was benevolent. He hoped the emperor was as benevolent as the rumors said and would let his family keep their lives.
“Anbei General, Military Commissioner, we have almost reached Qiankun Palace.” The eunuch stopped walking and finally spoke to the pair. “This one must first offend Officials.”
“Of course.” Wei Ting knew that they were not close officials to the Son of Heaven. If they had to meet the emperor, they would have to be searched first to prevent them from carrying weapons.
Because both were third-rank important officials, the ones searching them were the dragon guard. After the search, the guards bowed to the pair to apologize and then retreated to the side.
Zhao Jin saw this and couldn’t help thinking, the personal guards of the emperor were so respectful—His Majesty must be a benevolent and righteous ruler.
After the two were searched, the eunuch led them forward. Halfway, the eunuch suddenly stopped and said in an urgent tone, “Quick, move aside—the phoenix procession is coming.”
Zhao Jin was dazed. He saw a procession coming ahead of him. The one walking at the front was a beauty dressed in almond-yellow palace robes. Before he could see the other’s appearance, he hurriedly bowed his head and took a few steps back.
The footsteps grew closer. He could hear a pleasing voice in his ear, soft and delicate and threaded with sweetness.
“This small official greets Your Majesty.”
“This lowly general greets Your Majesty.” He did not dare to look up and bowed deeply.
Then he saw that pair of pearl embroidered slippers stop in front of him. He heard the empress ask, “You are the Anbei General?”
“Your Majesty, this lowly general is.” He had not thought the empress had heard of him and his voice was excited.
“This palace heard Brother mention you—he says you are skilled in military tactics, and can shoot at a hundred paces.” Gu Ru Jiu looked at this middle-aged man. While he was just in his early thirties, because of the hardship on the borders, he looked like he was in his forties.
Zhao Jin recalled the brother of the empress was Gu Zhi Yu, a vice-director in the Office of State Ceremonies. He had met Gu Zhi Yu a few times, and had not expected the other to have such a high opinion of him. He bowed and said, “The Brother-in-law to the country is too complimentary.”
“General has no need to be so humble.” Gu Ru Jiu saw the grateful look in this weathered man’s eyes and couldn’t help but think, this general’s thoughts were so simple. She glanced at the nearby Wei Ting and her voice cooled slightly. “Officials, you have had a hard time travelling and have important things to attend to. This palace will not disturb you any longer.”
“Farewell, Empress.” Wei Ting felt slightly anxious. The empress was too gentle to Wei Jing, so gentle it did not look like she was treating someone who had betrayed the country. Could it be…
He didn’t dare to think more and followed the eunuch into the imperial study.
The imperial study was spacious, and the ground so clean it was like a mirror. Zhao Jin and Wei Ting immediately went into a deep bow to the emperor at the front.
“Stand up.” Jin Yang threw a memorandum to the table. “Official Wei has accused General Zhao of betraying the country. What is the evidence?”
Wei Ting hurriedly put the documents he had previously collected onto the tray He Ming carried over. Then he said, “Your Majesty, these are the documents this subject had people intercept. Your Majesty, please inspect them.”
Looking at the documents on the tray, Jin Yang did not go to take them and said, “Documents can be forged. Official Wei, do you have any other evidence?”
“This…” Wei Ting glanced up at the emperor. The other had a cool expression, as though he did not have many feelings towards the matter of Zhao Jin. He felt even more anxious. This did not seem like the reaction of an emperor after hearing about a betrayal of the country.
“This subject has also found treasures from the Gaoluo royal family in his compound. These are items that ordinary officials cannot have.” Wei Ting bowed. “But there are so many items this subject could not bring them along. They are still on the carriage.”
“You found them in General Zhao’s residence?” Jin Yang raised an eyebrow and said neutrally, “You and Zhao Jin are both third-rank officials. Who gave you the power to search the general’s residence?”
“Your Majesty, this subject had to make this bad decision out of helplessness.” Wei Ting became terrified inside. He had not expected His Majesty to make trouble on this matter. He panicked and knelt down.
While civil and military officials had similar rank most times, in reality, civil officials were of higher status than military officials. This was an unspoken thing in Feng politics. But in front of the throne, he could not say that civil officials had higher status than military ones.
“What bad decision—Zhen thought that Official Wei could do as you please in Qingbei to other people.” Jin Yang snorted coldly. “I have handed the matter over to Prime Minister Zhang to investigate. Before the matter is cleared, you two will temporarily stay in one of the palaces and cannot leave or enter without a summons.”
Zhao Jin was both shocked and happy. He was happy because His Majesty did not favour the civil over the military. He was shocked that the emperor did not listen to Wei Ting’s one-sided words and had Prime Minister Zhang investigate the matter. Prime Minister Zhang had a gentle personality but came from a poor family, like he did. At least from this point, Prime Minister Zhang’s investigation would be much more fair.
“Yes.” Wei Ting paled, and trembled as he bowed. On the way here, due to being heavily guarded, he had had no opportunity to receive news from the capital, so he did not understand the present situation of the capital.
Previously, Official Sima had said that if he managed to get rid of Zhao Jin and insert one of their own into the position of Qingbei Army commander, he would be promoted. He thought this was a trivial matter, because during the time of the previous emperor, there had been some generals “suspected” of betraying the country being demoted by the previous emperor. So he had not thought about it at all.
Now it appeared the matter was not simple, and the situation of the capital was far more complex than he had imagined. His Majesty also appeared not to trust the Sima Family greatly. Otherwise, the emperor would not treat him with such an attitude, and give the matter to Zhang Zhong Han to handle.
Zhang Zhong Han was a wily old fox. He appeared gentle and easy-going, but for a student from a poor family to climb to the position of prime minister, how could he be incompetent?
Also, Zhao Jin and Zhang Zhong Han both came from poor families. If Zhang Zhong Han wanted to protect the rights of the poor families in court, he would do his best to protect Zhao Jin.
The more Wei Ting thought, the more afraid he became. But the emperor did not want to speak more with him, and had him leave.
But after he left, Zhao Jin was still in the imperial study. The emperor’s attitude showed he had made a misstep.
Leaving the palace, he was taken by the imperial guards to another residence. There were guards outside. He did not know how he could pass messages out.
He paced in the room, circling around the table several times, wanting to think of a solution.
“Right now, only Official Sima can rescue me.” Wei Ting sighed. It was now early summer, but he still felt cold in his chest.
After almost four hours, he saw the imperial guards send Zhao Jin in. The two of them were in the same courtyard—one east, one west. They could see each other from afar, but they did not violate each other.
Seeing the imperial guards so polite to Zhao Jin, Wei Ting thought of the cold expressions when the guards were facing him. He felt even more anxious.
In the following days, he did not eat or sleep well, dropping a size in weight. But even so, he was not summoned by the emperor, and Official Sima did not manage to pass any message to him.
He knew he was finished.
From a few days before when Dowager Consort Sun caught a cold, Jingan Palace became bleak. When Gu Ru Jiu stepped back in there, she saw the palace attendants were all dispirited and devoid of energy.
Gu Ru Jiu frowned. She ignored the attendants bowing to her and headed into the inner hall.
Dowager Consort Sun was still on the bed recovering. Seeing Gu Ru Jiu enter, she panted, wanting to get up and bow. Gu Ru Jiu stopped her. “Dowager Consort, lie down. Are you better?”
“Thank you, Your Majesty, for visiting. I am much better.” Dowager Consort Sun covered her mouth with a handkerchief and coughed softly. Then she said, “Your Majesty, leave quickly—do not let me infect you.”
“Dowager Consort, don’t worry. This palace has already asked the palace physician. Your illness will not spread,” Gu Ru Jiu said with a faint smile. “You just have to rest a few days.”
Dowager Consort Sun stopped coughing and took down her handkerchief. “Your Majesty is correct.” She took the tea a palace maid handed her and sipped. She slowly said, “Your Majesty did not come today just to check my health?”
Gu Ru Jiu smiled and sat down on a nearby chair. She slowly fanned herself with a round fan with blooming flowers. “As expected of Dowager Consort. You easily see through to people’s minds.”
“Your Majesty is too serious. After staying so long in this place, even the stupidest person will learn to be smart.” Dowager Consort Sun glanced at Gu Ru Jiu and said in an odd tone, “Once Your Majesty stays here long, you will also have such abilities.”
Bai Xian, who had come in with Gu Ru Jiu, immediately frowned and looked in dissatisfaction at Dowager Consort Sun.
Gu Ru Jiu smiled. She did not respond to Dowager Consort Sun’s words and said, “This palace came today to ask what Dowager Consort saw that night.”
Dowager Consort Sun looked down at her clean hands. “I had a nightmare and saw someone who has passed away.”
“Oh?” Gu Ru Jiu said interestedly. “Consort Lin?”
Hearing the words “Consort Lin,” Dowager Consort Sun suddenly looked up and said to Gu Ru Jiu, “Your Majesty, it is best not to mention past matters.”
Gu Ru Jiu saw Dowager Consort Sun’s serious expression and said with a smile, “Dowager Consort Sun is correct—past matters do not have to be mentioned.” She stood up. “Since Dowager Consort Sun is fine, this palace is reassured.”
She had the palace maid give the gift she had prepared to Dowager Consort Sun. “Then this palace will no longer disturb you. Dowager Consort, rest well.”
“Your Majesty, take care.” Dowager Consort Sun sat on the bed and bent towards Gu Ru Jiu.
After Gu Ru Jiu left, Dowager Consort Sun opened the gift box. Inside was a hundred year ginseng.
“Hundred year ginseng, very good.” Dowager Consort Sun closed the gift box and said with a smile, “Our empress is really a lucky person loved by her parents and beloved by the emperor. She is so generous.”
“Dowager Consort, do you think the empress will go investigate this past matter?” The matron next to her took the gift box and asked worriedly, “If she does not investigate, won’t your arrangements go to waste?”
“Young person, loved by the emperor. How could she not be curious?” Dowager Consort Sun smiled mockingly. “When this palace was as young as her, wasn’t I so curious?”
If the past matters were investigated, all things would be pulled out together. If the empress dowager was dragged in and caused a scandal for the imperial family, wouldn’t it be more interesting?
When Gu Ru Jiu returned to the Purple Imperial Hall, Jin Yang had returned from the imperial study. Seeing her enter, Jin Yang said, “I hear you have gone to Jingan Palace again?”
“Dowager Consort Sun is ill. The court and inner palace both know. If I did not go, wouldn’t other people gossip?” Gu Ru Jiu walked next to him and took the book away from his hands. “Why have you copied me in reading these books?”
“I am nurturing our common interest.” Jin Yang smiled, grabbed her hand and rolled up her sleeve. “That old woman is mad. She bruised you so badly that it hasn’t faded until now.”
“Your Majesty, how can you speak so?” Gu Ru Jiu reached out to cover his mouth and lowered her voice. “What old woman? That is a dowager consort. If people find out that Your Majesty speaks so crudely in private, you will be embarrassed.”
“What do I fear?” Jin Yang had He Ming go get an ointment and then gently massaged Gu Ru Jiu’s bruise for her. “As long as I do not lose you.”
“Oh no, my name as the calamitous empress will be proven.” Gu Ru Jiu giggled. “This is all your fault.”
“Only a man who is not capable and cannot guard his country will blame a woman for being a calamity.” Jin Yang smiled and shook his head. “Don’t move—let me rub this. Otherwise, you will be in more pain for a few more days.”
“It stopped hurting long ago—it just looks frightening.” Gu Ru Jiu sat upright and allowed Jin Yang to help her rub the bruise as she ate tofu. “Just now, when I came out of the study, I met Wei Ting and Zhao Jin.”
“How do you feel about these two people?” Jin Yang bent down to lightly blow on Gu Ru Jiu’s wrist. He used a handkerchief to wipe the ointment from the other parts of her wrist. When he finished, he wiped his own hands and threw the handkerchief to the side.
“At a glance, Wei Ting is elegant and a gentleman. Zhao Jin has an ordinary appearance, weathered, and his conduct is not as elegant as Wei Ting’s.” Gu Ru Jiu took the handkerchief. She bent down and wiped Jin Yang’s fingers. “But based on what I know, Qingbei is a harsh environment. There are windstorms in summer, snow in winter. There are many people like Zhao Jin, and few like Wei Ting.”
How much effort would it take to make oneself so white and smooth?
If Wei Ting really was dedicated to the people, going out sometimes to observe the people, how could he maintain his elegant middle-aged appearance after being exposed to the wind and sun? Even the most beautiful person, after going to a place like Qingbei, would become rough.
Hearing Gu Ru Jiu’s analysis, Jin Yang said with a smile, “It seems that you admire Zhao Jin more?”
“Chenjun, you don’t know that the Sima Family and I have old grudges?” Gu Ru Jiu threw his hand away and looked sideways at him. “Wei Ting is on the Sima Family’s side—how can I admire him?”
Jin Yang immediately smiled and reached out to Gu Ru Jiu, twisting around her like sticky candy. “Jiu Jiu is always so clear in her love and hate.”
“Yes, I cannot be fair-minded, but there is no problem with my grievances.” Gu Ru Jiu put her chin on Jin Yang’s shoulder and said with a smile, “The border soldiers bleed for the country, yet the civil officials can accuse them of a crime with a few words. Wouldn’t this make them both bleed and cry?”
“You are right,” Jin Yang said gravely. “We cannot chill the hearts of the soldiers.”
Jin Yang lightly patted Gu Ru Jiu’s back, feeling slightly agitated. Jiu Jiu always had the same thoughts as him. He could not ask for a better wife.
The couple had the same point of view, so they reached perfect harmony in the bed activity. So even during court the next morning, when the civil and military officials were arguing, Jin Yang was still in the mood to listen.
“Your Majesty, Wei Ting should not be imprisoned!” Official A thought, regardless of whether Zhao Jin had betrayed the country, Wei Ting had good intentions. He was thinking for Great Feng, so Zhao Jin should be detained while Wei Ting should be released.
“Nonsense—if casually accusing court officials is good for Great Feng, then can’t I suspect you of betraying the country?!” The military officials expressed they were not happy and were in fact very depressed. Zhao Jin worked hard to guard the border of the country but was accused of criminal acts by a civil official. They felt slighted and bitter.
The two sides argued, and some civil officials were on the verge of fighting physically. But their range was limited to the civil officials. It appeared no civil official took the initiative to attack a military official.
Seeing these people fighting like this, Jin Yang said, “If you want to fight, go outside and do not disturb the court.”
Hearing this, the ones already fighting and preparing to fight all settled down, and then stood where they were, waiting for the emperor’s reprimand.
Who knew the emperor seemed to be in a good mood today. He did not get angry or punish them.
“Zhen knows Officials are thinking for the people, but the country has laws. If Zhao Jin really betrayed the country, he should be sentenced according to the law. But if Zhao Jin did not sell the country, then Wei Ting has framed a court official and should also be punished according to the law. Everyone, there is no need to argue about this.” Jin Yang gently patted the arm of the dragon throne. “Wei Ting is in the capital now, and Qingbei Prefecture is an important pass for the country. The most urgent matter is to pick a capable official to temporarily take over as the Qingbei military commissioner.”
The people from the Sima faction felt something wrong at these words. Wei Ting had not been in the capital for many days, and the emperor was having someone temporarily replace him. Wasn’t this clearly telling other people that he did not trust Wei Ting?
Otherwise, why only replace Wei Ting, the military commissioner, and not the general?
Some smart people had detected the wind direction was wrong. Those with simpler heads thought the emperor trusted Zhao Jin more. These two types did not have objections to the emperor’s decision.
As to the Sima Faction, they had objections but Jin Yang did not compromise with them and picked an official to take over the Qingbei military commissioner position.
Everyone knew, this temporary replacement would soon become the actual commissioner. But since the emperor had decided, they could not object.
Jin Yang’s action caused many generals to feel grateful. When court was ending, the military officials bowed much deeper.
Zhang Zhong Han saw these excited generals and sighed inside. The matter of Wei Ting and Zhao Jin was no longer a conflict between the two of them, but a clash between the Sima faction and the emperor.
The Sima Family was in danger this time.
“Prime Minister Zhang.” Sima Hong called Zhang Zhong Han. “Please wait.”
“Official Sima.” Zhang Zhong Han smiled and bowed to Sima Hong. He knew why Sima Hong had called him, but he did not take up the conversation.
The Sima Family were grasshoppers after autumn. Why would he tie himself to the same rope as this kind of grasshopper?
But Sima Hong did not mention this matter at all, and spoke of a past matter.
“Does Prime Minister Zhang still remember the case of Consort Lin poisoning the imperial son?”
Translator Ramblings: I don’t know where the year went, but we have less than a quarter of a story to go.