Chapter 73: Official Correspondence
Weichi Yan looked in the direction of Qin Yining’s departing figure with sparkling eyes and a stunned expression. He didn’t actually hear Qin Huaiyuan’s words. The grand preceptor quickly realized that the crown prince hadn’t heard him when he caught sight of the latter’s expression. He raised his voice slightly. “Please forgive my daughter for her transgressions, Your Highness.”
“Eh? Oh! It’s nothing at all, Grand Preceptor.” Weichi Yan’s face burned slightly, and he coughed to cover up the moment. “Your daughter is extremely filial and a lady of genuine emotions. What’s wrong with such a personality? Placed next to those affectedly sweet girls, your daughter displays an incomparably heroic air. Just like how the essence of plum blossoms are drawn only with the addition of winding branches, your daughter’s strength of character is evident in her personality.”
“My daughter is stubborn and does not deserve your praise. I will increase my supervision of her in the future.” At least, Qin Huaiyuan felt that Qin Yining’s style was too fierce and unreasonable, behavior unfitting a noble daughter.
However, Weichi Yan responded quickly, “Don’t hem her in too much, Grand Preceptor. There’s nothing wrong with such a personality.”
Qin Huaiyuan felt compelled to assess Weichi Yan’s sincerity when he heard such unabashed affection in his voice. He smiled when he saw the crown prince’s face flushed red. To be a youth again… After so many years of tempering by the fires of court, his heart had long since been enveloped by a layer of rock. He would only recall the memories of his youth when he saw such interesting reactions from the young.
The two continued to file down the stone path, their followers falling far behind.
“The matters of the Ding Manor are truly a tragedy. Royal father has been scared out of his wits by Great Zhou and is willing to do anything for a moment’s peace. Although I am his son, I don’t agree with his actions. He doesn’t listen to anyone right now, just the empress.” Dissatisfaction and resignation suffused Weichi Yan’s words. Qin Huaiyan knew not to take sides when it came discussing matters regarding the royal family, so he just listened silently. The crown prince continued, “It’s been several days since the Great Zhou envoy’s sent his missive back to his country. He’ll probably receive a response in two days or so. I wonder what the Great Zhou emperor will do next. I hope royal father will take a hard stance and live up to Sun Yuangming’s efforts.”
“The emperor is noble and wise. He’s naturally only doing so because he’s listening to the advice of others.”
The emperor was the son of heaven and thus a divine existence. It was never his fault if he made a mistake. It was always the fault of others.
Weichi Yan smiled helplessly and nodded with a sigh. “Indeed.”
Qin Huaiyuan picked up the conversation, keeping his tone exactingly even. “As for Yuanming, although he defied the imperial decree, he used his own flesh and blood to once again incite the fervor and patriotism of the citizens of Great Yan. This is even more effective than his denunciation from yesteryear. Please remember this, Your Highness. There is nothing more disastrous than underestimating your enemy. Underestimating one’s enemies will cause one to lose everything.“
Weichi Yan’s footsteps halted. “On the battlefield, the enemy who is prepared for the worst will be the side that wins. These are words from Laozi’s ‘Tao Te Ching’.”
“Precisely.” Qin Huaiyuan strolled forward, his hands tucked behind his back. “There’s a reason for the notion that victory is assured for the side most prepared to lose. Yuanming has gone to such extreme lengths in order to uphold his ideology and to raise our morale. If the emperor makes a great fuss over this and spreads word of Yuanming’s heroic act wide and far, it will certainly raise the morale of our soldiers at Xihua and give us a chance to fight Pang Zhixi.”
Weichi Yan was immediately heartened by these words and clapped. “Your stratagems are indeed superb, Grand Preceptor! After hearing your words, I feel that Yuanming might’ve already thought of all this. He wouldn’t have used such extreme methods otherwise. I will speak to royal father about this. I’m sure that any man with blood flowing through his veins will be inspired by this.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded, keeping a smile on his face. However, he wasn’t as optimistic as the crown prince. If the emperor really was that sort of person, he wouldn’t have shed all of his imperial majesty and cowered in front of the Great Zhou envoy. Not only was he frightened out of his wits at the mere thought of Great Zhou, but he likely wasn’t thinking about anything in the future at all.
Sun Yu was renowned throughout the world when he denounced the enemy so eloquently. At that time, the citizenry had already utterly trashed the emperor’s reputation, but Sun Yu had appeared as a towering hero of nobility. Such a mighty figure with incredible strength of character was no more, due to the emperor’s ineptitude and his desire to fawn over the dowager empress of an enemy nation. How many scholars in the world would erupt in roars of fury? How many soldiers and civilians would grieve and mourn? Qin Huaiyuan didn’t believe for a moment that a Great Zhou doctor had actually prescribed eating human brains as a cure. The Great Zhou emperor had always been sly and crafty. This was likely a scheme designed to drive a wedge between the Great Yan emperor and his subjects.
And yet, their emperor had jumped without hesitation into the pit they had dug. What could they as subjects do? Everyone could see that Great Zhou’s iron hooves had trodden all the way to the walls of Xihua. Great peril lurked just out of sight, and everyone was terrified of the city falling to the enemy. They were also fearful that they would be the next sacrifice.
Weichi Yan continued the discussion of what to say to the emperor, carefully committing Qin Huaiyuan’s words to memory. When they were both satisfied, he left enthusiastically for the palace. Qin Huaiyuan looked at the self assured figure of the departing crown prince and sighed. The crown prince was an honest and genuine person with great talent in the realm of drawing and painting. He would’ve led a carefree life had he been the son of any ordinary wealthy family or the second-born from the official wife of a noble family. Sadly, his fate was that of the crown prince. Qin Huaiyuan was well aware that the odds of the emperor listening to Weichi Yan were low. But though chances weren’t high, it was still worthy of a try. As subjects, they didn’t dare offer advice, but the crown prince was the emperor’s only heir. As angry as the imperial majesty may be, he would only yell and shout for a bit. He wouldn’t call for the crown prince’s head.
Qin Huaiyuan summoned Qitai. “Go have people keep an eye on any happenings in the palace over the next couple of days. See how the emperor reacts when the crown prince talks to him.”
Qitai nodded in assent, quickly making his way out while Qin Huaiyuan headed for the Garden of Tranquility.
Née Sun had just seen the doctor, whose diagnosis had confirmed Bingtang’s words. Qin Yining could finally be at ease and help née Sun lay down to rest. “Don’t get so angry easily, mother. Anger hurts the body the most. Is your health important or is butting heads with someone more important?”
Née Sun murmured back, “I have a clumsy mouth and never win in crucial moments. My heart has completely chilled, in any case.”
“Don’t think so much.” Qin Yining smiled. “You spend your days with father, not anyone else. Isn’t it enough that father treats you genuinely? Think about how much father has done in the Ding Manor these days for eldest cousin. Grandfather and grandmother were both ill, and fifth and eighth cousin didn’t know what to do. Wasn’t father the one who’d picked up the reins and given advice? Father was willing to do all this because of you.”
Née Sun was greatly soothed by these comforting words and her lips curled up a little. “Do you mean that?”
“Of course I do.” Qin Yining nodded seriously and took the bowl of bird’s nest that Jin-mama had in her hands. She continued to reassure her mother as she fed née Sun. “You and father were a young couple and your love for each other has only deepened throughout the years. What haven’t the two of you weathered together? Although it hasn’t been long since I’ve returned home, I can see that father respects you immensely.”
Née Sun had lost her appetite after taking her medicine, but slowly ate through most of the bowl as she listened to Qin Yining. Even her darkened expression was slowly lightening. Jin-mama beamed so merrily that her eyes disappeared. True flesh and blood is the most caring, alright. She knows to think only the best for her birth mother. The old servant also joined in, “Fourth Miss speaks quite truly. You have thought of it yourself, madame, because of your anger. You are a married couple with the lord. What else matters other than his love? Isn’t that the case?”
Née Sun nodded as her wounded feelings from the afternoon dissipated. She tapped Qin Yining’s nose with a happy smile. “No wonder your maternal grandmother says that you see things clearly. This is most certainly the case. Your grandmother only doted on you when we went back together!”
Qin Yining giggled. “Grandmother dotes on me only because of you, mother. I’m only here because of you.”
Née Sun couldn’t help but cover her mouth with a laugh, her complexion resuming its normal color. Qin Huaiyuan had heard the conversation clearly from his position in the outside hallway. He was blushing a bit awkwardly and thought for a moment, deciding to leave instead of heading inside. Caiju and Cailan looked at each other and giggled, having been ordered a moment ago to not make a sound.
Née Sun rinsed her mouth after eating the bird’s nest, then had Qin Yining and Jin-mama help her down to rest for the night. She didn’t learn about Qin Huining losing a tooth and being thrown in the lotus pond in the rear gardens until the morrow.
When she did hear about it, it was an objective summary from Jin-mama. Née Sun looked at her reflection in the brass mirror and sighed after a long while. “Daughter Hui is a child after all. Choose two bolts of cloth made from the latest colors and send them to her to make new clothes. Also, have an imperial physician take a look at her. The days are so cold and it won’t do for a little girl’s health to be permanently damaged.”
“Understood.” Jin-mama assented with a smile. Privately, she entirely approved of the fourth miss’ actions. She felt quite vindicated by them, in fact. That ingrate and heartless wench! She’s been nothing but trouble and might actually grow up into something that would actually affect family dynamics if she’s not punished properly. Only someone as strong as the fourth miss can keep her under control.
Setting aside the fact that Qin Huining was confined to bed due to a cold, and how pained the old dowager and née Sun were, every family were happily celebrating New Year’s Eve when the crown prince was punished to kneel outside the imperial study for four hours. Only when he fainted from the cold did the emperor allow him to be lifted back to the Eastern Palace to be grounded. That news spread quickly throughout court, as did the official correspondence from Great Zhou Emperor Li Qitian.
No one had any idea how they’d done it, but his reply had been handled like an imperial Great Yan announcement. It was plastered on all streets and alleyways in the capital and neighboring towns practically overnight. Mighty words and a regal tone leapt off the page, angrily denouncing the Great Yan emperor for his devious and deceitful ways. He wouldn’t even offer a human brain to the Great Zhou dowager empress! He didn’t truly want peace at all! Great Zhou would raze Great Yan to the ground and haul off its emperor to be sliced into pieces!