Chapter 1274: Fierce Debate!
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
King Song glanced at Wang Chong, a ripple of emotion in his eyes.
“Your intuition isn’t bad. I sent people to Jiangnan to investigate and learned that He Qingrong’s mother doesn’t have any sort of serious illness. She just has a minor cold, and together with her longing to see her son and the persuasions of some of the people in her village, this cold turned into a serious illness.”
Wang Chong creased his brow upon hearing this. This matter was far more complicated than he had imagined. If He Qingrong’s mother missed her son, He Qingrong was completely capable of requesting a vacation to see his parents, whether for two months or even more. It was clear that someone was making use of this matter.
At this time, the carriage suddenly stopped, finally arriving in front of the Taihe Gate. Beyond it was the Taihe Palace. Wang Chong and King Song both came back to their senses. Adjusting their expressions, they walked out of the carriage together.
“Let’s go inside first! When the time comes, we’ll act according to the situation. No matter what, we have to recommend another official to supervise the irrigation project while also allowing He Qingrong to go home and see his parents!” King Song said.
Wang Chong grunted in affirmation and nodded. What King Song had said was exactly what he had in mind.
Taihe Palace loomed high in the sky, and the pair ascended the long stairs of white jade toward it.
Within Taihe Palace, all the officials had gathered.
As Wang Chong and King Song entered the hall together, there was a buzzing within as countless eyes turned to stare at the red-robed King of Foreign Lands.
“Something is going to happen today!”
The eyes gazing at the stern Wang Chong were brimming with apprehension. Although Wang Chong had started as a general, the events around the ‘dissolving of the prefectural armies’ and Zhang Chaoshu had taught everyone just how formidable Wang Chong was. Although he had not attended court in some time, he still wielded enormous influence.
“The King of Foreign Lands!”
Beacon General Jiang Yunrang and the other generals were overjoyed to see Wang Chong.
Wang Chong nodded, greeting these generals, and then his eyes quickly turned elsewhere.
Wang Chong swiftly noticed King Qi standing next to a coiling dragon pillar, his arms crossed. When Wang Chong looked over at him, King Qi was also looking at Wang Chong. Suddenly, King Qi’s lips curled into a cold smile while a hint of smugness appeared in his eyes.
A cloud of worry appeared on Wang Chong’s brow. But before Wang Chong could start any trouble, King Qi turned away and looked toward the hall’s raised platform. He half-closed his eyes and pretended that he was too lazy to worry about Wang Chong.
Wang Chong also put him aside and turned his eyes elsewhere. The structure of the civil and military officials in the court had not changed. Ever since King Song had been made co-regent, he had rejected many of the proposals made by the civil officials targeting the generals.
However, as his eyes passed over the unfamiliar officials the Confucian Sect had installed in the court, though those faces remained emotionless, Wang Chong felt like they were somehow different from how they were before. But he also could not rule out that he was just seeing things.
His gaze continued onward toward the spacious sandalwood chair on the upper right, where he spotted yet another familiar figure.
Ever since he had almost fallen unconscious from the rage of being rebuked by Wang Chong, the Grand Preceptor had been absent from the Imperial Court. But today, he had reappeared once more. He sat on his chair, which had its back to Wang Chong. He appeared to be taking a nap, clearly pretending to ignore Wang Chong.
Wang Chong’s brow rose upon seeing the Grand Preceptor’s back. The Grand Preceptor was extremely proud, and after being utterly humiliated by Wang Chong, he had been too ashamed to appear in court. Unless there was something special happening, he would have never appeared to occupy the same hall as Wang Chong.
Is it for He Qingrong? Wang Chong quietly said to himself. But Wang Chong felt, deep inside, that this matter was not as simple as it seemed on the surface.
Wang Chong suppressed the unease in his heart and turned his gaze to Bright Minister He Qingrong, and then he looked to the left, where the leader of the officials, Prime Minister Li Linfu, stood. At this moment, he heard a high-pitched voice in his ear.
“The First Prince has arrived!”
Crack! With the sound of the whip, the gathered officials immediately turned silent. Meanwhile, First Prince Li Ying walked out from the side of the hall, appearing like a tiger or dragon as he walked, escorted by several silk-robed eunuchs and Golden Guards.
“Paying respects to the First Prince!”
Upon seeing the First Prince, everyone bowed. As for the First Prince, he raised his robe and seated himself on the throne that represented the Sage Emperor.
He had a scornful look in his eyes, and his aura was grandiose and vast. Perhaps because he had been sitting on the dragon throne and handling court affairs in the Sage Emperor’s place, the First Prince had gradually begun to develop the imperial aura of the Sovereign of Nine and Five! His gaze was like a lightning bolt, swiftly flitting through the hall. In the end, it paused on Wang Chong for a brief moment before quickly drawing away.
“Honored officials, if there are any concerns, please present a memorial. Otherwise, you may withdraw!”
A shrill voice resounded through the hall. Next to the First Prince was a white-haired and bearded old eunuch who had taken Eunuch Gao’s place. He was thin and shriveled, and his fingers were like claws. Although his body exuded no aura, as his eyes scanned the room, they shone with a sharp and unfathomable light. This was clearly one of the top-class experts of the Imperial Palace.
“Your Highness, this subject has a memorial!”
An official quickly stepped forward to start on today’s agenda.
Even though the Sage Emperor had retired to the palace and left the First Prince as his regent, nothing else had changed. The government had many affairs to handle involving various prefectures and commanderies. These aspects were not Wang Chong’s expertise, so after listening for a while, he closed his eyes and silently waited.
For today’s court session, the Grand Preceptor, King Qi, and Li Linfu had all come. Wang Chong keenly understood that all the other topics of discussion were only the appetizer. The crucial issue rested on Bright Minister He Qingrong.
This court session would decide whether he remained or returned home.
The court resolved one matter after another, and after some time, a voice suddenly spoke.
An official stepped out of his rank, turned to the First Prince, and loudly declared, “Your Highness, this subject has a memorial! Multiple attempts have been made to resolve the problem of Jiangnan’s flood, but the problems persist. Not long ago, a proposal was passed for the investment of three million taels of gold in excavating new canals and irrigation channels. This lowly subject proposes that the Imperial Court should consider the wishes of the people and dispatch the Bright Minister to Jiangnan to supervise the project!”
Wang Chong had originally been acting as a bystander, his eyes closed, but when he heard this voice, his eyes flew open.
A cold light flashed through his eyes as he instantly recognized this voice. This was none other than the Minister of Ceremonies who had done his utmost to prevent the Imperial Court from sending reinforcements to Talas, Zhou Taiqin.
Wang Chong felt a jolt in his heart. After so long, this court session was finally about to enter the main topic.
“Your Highness, this subject agrees! Lord He is a Jiangnan native and is extremely familiar with the terrain and geography. If Lord He is sent, he is certain to be able to work with the locals and increase the efficiency of the project, greatly decreasing the time needed and avoiding many unnecessary problems!” An old official followed Zhou Taiqin in voicing his agreement.
“That’s right! In addition, Lord He’s mother is seriously ill, and it is said that filial piety is paramount above all virtues. By supervising the irrigation project, Lord He can fulfill his filial duties while also working for the benefit of the country and people. Truly, this is to kill two birds with one stone. Surely, Lord He will not object.” Another important official spoke out, and with the support of these three, the other officials began to voice their support.
Moments after everyone had finished speaking, the Assistant Minister of War, Cao Qianzong, stepped forward from his own spot near King Song. “Your Highness, this subject objects! Lord He is the Bright Minister, a lower-rank-two official. Moreover, he has spent many years in the court and is extremely familiar with the various affairs of the Imperial Court and the operations of the empire. Excavating new canals and irrigation channels is truly for the benefit of the country and people, but for this matter, only officials from the Bureau of Works should be sent. There is no need for Lord He to go himself. There are major matters and minor matters, those of great aptitude and those of minor aptitude. Those of great aptitude should be put to major tasks while those of minor aptitude should be put to minor tasks. Moreover, Lord He is not even an official of the Bureau of Works.”
With Cao Qianzong leading the way, one official after another in King Song’s faction began to speak up. “Your Highness, this subject shares the same opinion as Lord Cao and objects! All officials of the court have their posts and duties. This is the basis on which the court usually handles its affairs. If an irrigation project requires a lower-rank-two official to supervise it, then if any other place requires an irrigation project or countermeasures to be taken against flood or drought, should we be sending upper-rank-two, lower-rank-one, or even upper-rank-one officials? If all matters are handled like this, wouldn’t the Imperial Court be empty and everything left undecided? What sort of system would that be? This lowly subject firmly objects to this matter.”
At this moment, the red-robed figure of the Minister of Rites, Pei Cunyi, stepped forward. “He Qingrong originated from the Bureau of Works and is extremely knowledgeable in irrigation projects. Just who else can compare to him in this aspect? Moreover, filial piety is the foremost of virtues. If he does not even go to see his mother when she is seriously ill, he has failed as a son, and then what right does he have to stand in the Imperial Court to serve as an official and model for the empire?”
Wang Chong coldly observed everything from the sidelines, and harsh light flitted through his eyes. Pei Cunyi was the Minister of Rites and also one of King Qi’s men. If King Qi was even having him come forward, it was clear that he was dead set on this matter. Given the combined might of King Qi, the Grand Preceptor, Li Linfu, and the First Prince, if King Song’s faction lost even the Bright Minister, it would become extremely weak and incapable of opposing King Qi.
More importantly, without the help of a lower-rank-two official in He Qingrong, the words of King Qi’s men would have much more weight in the court and they would be able to easily pass many proposals. Further…
Wang Chong recalled the information King Song’s spy had obtained from King Qi. It was clear that the matter of He Qingrong was only the beginning. Once He Qingrong’s position fell into the hands of King Qi and the Confucian Sect, more and more people would probably be replaced. The Confucian Sect would not limit itself to just one position. This was also why Wang Chong had made an appearance today.
A loud and energetic voice rang out through the hall. At the very back, Wang Chong raised his robe and stepped forward.
“Your subject proposes that the irrigation project in Jiangnan be supervised by King Qi.”
Wang Chong bowed.