Chapter 226: Empress Candidates for the New Emperor (I)
Qin Huaiyuan remained silent for a long while. “It’s the fault of the parents if a child is only given food and clothing but not education. It’s my fault that she hasn’t been taught properly.”
“You’re too kind-hearted, father. She was born like that. It has nothing to do with how you raised her.” Qin Yining rose. “Father, I’m feeling dizzy. I’ll go take my medicine and get some rest. There’s plenty more to do for the burial tomorrow.”
Qin Huaiyuan nodded with quick agreement and helped his daughter to the covered hallway, calling for Jiyun to take her mistress back to the Venerable Study Hall. He then turned to Mu Jinghu. “Thank you for all of your help, Sir Mu.”
“Don’t worry about it, uncle. We’re not strangers here.” Mu Jinghu raised a cupped fist salute and followed the two girls through the inner doors.
The situation in the Qin Manor these days was far removed from the norm. There was no longer the concern of whether or not foreign males could enter the inner residence. The entire family knew that Mu Jinghu was a highly skilled guard sent by Pang Xiao. They all felt safer with him around, so they didn’t mind him going in and out of the previous women-only areas.
The next day, a slight drizzle answered the capital’s calls for long-awaited rain. Deceased Qin family members and servants were buried with pomp and circumstance on Mt. Jadecloud.
On the same day, the emperor abdicated in favor of his crown prince Weichi Yan, citing declining health in old age and insufficient endurance for the pressures of court. The calendar would be renamed to the years of Yuan Kang and the crowning ceremony take place in ten days. The Ministry of Rites was ordered to hasten their preparations.
A bloody curtain was finally drawn on the emperor emeritus’ ludicrous reign of extravagance and debauchery. The nation broke out in jubilance when the imperial decree was delivered!
Smiles adorned faces in streets and alleyways. To the people, the future was filled with hope again. They’d lined the streets in cheering celebration when the Prince of Ning charged in with ten thousand troops. And now even the steady drizzle tasted sweet to them.
Some said that the heavens were looking upon the abdication with favor, sending misty rain to break the drought.
The next day, all fifth rank officials and higher congregated at the Gate of Supreme Harmony to attend the new emperor’s first session of morning court. Though Qin Huaiyuan didn’t have a position any more, Weichi Yan’s trusted eunuch Lu-gongong had personally escorted the marquis here early in the morning. The marquis was placed at the head of the civil subject officials.
Although the emperor had yet to arrive, all of the officials could tell from Qin Huaiyuan’s placement that the Caos were no more. With the emperor’s shockingly direct abdication, the former crown prince was naturally going to utilize the Qins once more as Qin Huaiyuan had always been in his camp. The marquis’ peers greeted him much more warmly than before.
“Announcing His Imperial Majesty!” A eunuch’s thin, shrill tones echoed in the vast clearing, followed by a figure in bright gold slowly pacing forward and taking a seat on the dragon throne.
It was topped by a young and handsome face, quite a sight for sore eyes. The officials closer to the throne could glimpse their new ruler’s visage. All were quietly overjoyed by this change.
“The emperor has arrived! All subjects are to commence the grand gesture of greeting!”
The officials knelt in unison with the eunuch’s words. They knelt three times, each motion accompanied by three kowtows. The greeting was concluded with three cheers of wishing the emperor life as long as ten thousand years. The heartfelt shouts even shook the royal city a bit.
Weichi Yan maintained perfect posture with a ramrod straight back. He lifted a hand, “Our beloved subjects are exempt from further courtesies.”
“Many thanks to Your Majesty!”
The new emperor rose when his subjects returned to standing positions. He stood upon the dial with hands behind his back and called out, “This is Our first time holding court and so We have a few announcements to make. The first is that Cao Bingzhong exceeded heaven’s tolerance of evil and caused the people to rise up against him. His home was trampled by refugees. Out of consideration for his years of service to the throne, We will not pursue the rest of his clan for his crimes.”
“Your Majesty is wise and noble!” The officials bowed.
As he gazed down at the rows of genuflecting subjects on the spacious parade ground and took in their shouts, Weichi Yan felt a certain emotion bestir within him for the first time in his life. He’d never felt so self-assured before.
He was now Great Yan’s most noble personage. Those harsh days of being suppressed by his birth father and schemed against by his stepmother were all over!
With power firmly in hand, he could live life how he wanted and have everything he wanted. Pride glinted in his eyes. “Secondly, Marquis of Anping Qin Huaiyuan has ever been steadfastly loyal, fulfilling his duties uncomplainingly, and accomplished much for nation and country. We have looked into the various matters of before and conclude that Cao Bingzhong framed Qin Huaiyuan out of jealousy. And so the marquis is hereby restored to his previous positions as Grand Preceptor of the Heir Apparent and Prime Minister.”
The emperor looked at the official closest to him with a smile. “Grand Preceptor Qin.”
Qin Huaiyuan strode out confidently, bowing with flair. “This subject gratefully thanks Your Majesty’s favor.”
“Your Majesty is wise and noble! Long live the emperor, may he live tens of thousands of years!” The officials kowtowed again.
Someone called out from the crowd of officials at this time. “The emperor is newly ascended to the throne and so our nation’s foundations must be set, as does the imperial harem need to be consolidated. Designating a crown prince will set people’s minds at ease, while solidifying the imperial harem will put the world at ease.”
“This subject concurs! We must change due process accordingly when faced with tense and unusual situations. We request that the emperor fill the imperial harem and secure descendants for the imperial line!”
The officials were worried that something might suddenly happen to the emperor. If there was no heir apparent, that would result in cataclysmic upheaval for the nation. This was why their first order of business was to recommend that Weichi Yan add to his imperial harem.
He did have some concubines and bedwarmers from when he was still crown prince, but none of them had borne any children.
This had to do with the foundations of a nation. Weichi Yan did indeed have some ideas and had made the relevant preparations. He nodded when he heard the proposal.
“Our beloved subjects share Our thoughts. As We have no son, We have decided to adopt a son from the imperial clan. We see that the Prince of Ning’s firstborn, Weichi Jie, is exceedingly intelligent and find great favor with him. We plan to adopt him as our eldest son. What say you all?”
The Weichi clan didn’t have an abundance of children. The emperor emeritus had once adopted the Prince of Ning’s official firstborn because he didn’t have a son either. This adopted son had later been returned when the former emperor sired his own son.
Weichi Yan was close with the Ning household, so it wasn’t surprising that this once imperial prince would become well, a prince once more.
The officials all bowed and loudly praised the emperor’s wisdom.
Now that the issue of crown prince was settled, that left the issue of the imperial harem.
Sweat made Weichi Yan’s palms slippery. There was even a faint sheen on his forehead. He subconsciously looked at Qin Huaiyuan standing at the front, but Qin Yining’s stunning beauty was what rose to mind instead.
“As for candidates for empress…” The emperor’s voice trembled slightly from emotion. “We hear that beloved subject Qin’s firstborn daughter has received a fortune from the Soothsayer, declaring of an exceedingly noble and auspicious birth chart? That her presence can protect the nation?”
Qin Huaiyuan’s heart skipped a beat, but nothing reflected on his face. He only bowed fearfully. “In response to Your Majesty, the Soothsayer did indeed express this.”
Joy filled Weichi Yan’s heart and he opened his mouth to pronounce Qin Yining the empress. But what the marquis said afterwards stopped him in his tracks.
“Your Majesty, this subject feels that the imperial harem does indeed need to be filled after your new ascension. Why not take advantage of the ceremony schedule to hold a selection and consider all of the well-bred, well-learned ladies of suitable age from the aristocracy? We can use the ten days before the ceremony to compare them all. This way, we’ll decrease the chances of overlooking someone worthy and also add to Your Majesty’s imperial harem. What do you think?”
Though Qin Huaiyuan’s words were tactful, they were in fact a warning. Don’t think you can covet any woman you want just because you’re the emperor. Wouldn’t that make you the same as the former emperor? Mind yourself!
However, as caught up in his joy as he was, Weichi Yan heard none of the undertones. Qin Huaiyuan probably can’t bear to let his daughter go and wants some more pomp and circumstance to raise her status.
“Alright, then things shall be as beloved subject Qin says. The selection will take place over ten days, with the empress and imperial concubine ceremony to take place after the crowning ceremony.”