Book 18 Chapter 01 – The Empress Moves Out Of The Palace
Xiang Shaolong has just pa.s.sed the city gates when he received Xiao Pan’s imperial edict to enter the palace at once.
Xiao Pan is in the inner court discussing matters with Lu Buwei, Lord Changping and other high ranking officials. After waiting in the Imperial Study for an hour, Xiang Shaolong managed to see Xiao Pan.
After they got seated, Xiao Pan smiled: “Does Master know this man named Feng Qie? He is our law minister.”
Xiang Shaolong replied with a smile: “What is it regarding that Crown Prince specially mentioned this person?”
Xiao Pan plainly replied: “This man has some backbone and is not fearful of authority. He even dared to rebut me in court. He may be influenced by the Spring-Autumn Annals of Lu. He has been criticising our Qin laws, saying that they are too harsh and we paid too little heed to the teachings of the sages.”
Xiang Shaolong mused: “In this case, Crown Prince should be upset instead. Why did you sound pleased when talking about this person?”
Xiao Pan laughed heartily: “Master knows me best. Some of his arguments do make sense. For example, he pointed out that the Kings of every state will issue new laws according to changes in society. The changes are often abrupt and take place instantly, causing confusion among the officials and the people, creating unnecessary legal issues. This is very true. We need a uniform legislative process to make our country stronger.”
Gazing at this soon-to-be-eighteen future Qin Shi Huang, Xiang Shaolong is filled with respect. It is not because he has grasped the importance of uniform law making, but that he is open to alternative views and criticism.
Xiao Pan whispered: “Initially, I thought he is Lu Buwei’s man but he speaks with the same fearless aura as Master. After that, using the farm invasion report, he censured Lu Buwei strongly. As a result, I am confident that he is unafraid of death like Master. Ha! This man may not be good with administration but I am sure he will make a good Administrative Premier.”
Xiang Shaolong was stunned. Isn’t Li Si’s dream going to end up in smoke? He frantically interrupted: “The Crown Prince must reconsider. I think Official Li is a better choice.”
Xiao Pan shook his head: “Talking about choices, I think Master is the best choice. Have you ever heard Li Si reb.u.t.ting anyone? In terms of knowledge, Li Si is ten times better than Feng Qie. He is wise and may have even surpa.s.sed Shang Yang. From his Three Premiers Nine Ministers organization, he is most suited to be the Law minister and handle our great laws of Qin. I can also use his talent to build a lawful country in preparation of uniting the world one day.”
Xiang Shaolong is dumbfounded. In terms of ruling a country, he would not dare to debate with the man who will unite China.
At the end of the day, the Law Minister is still considered a high ranking post and Li Si should be contented.
At the same time, he can see his own influence over Xiao Pan. Because Feng Qie speaks like himself, Xiao Pan immediately has a high opinion of him.
Success is no coincidence. It is because Xiao Pan is capable of putting talent to good use which gives him the opportunity to conquer the world.
Turning happy, Xiao Pan continued in a low voice: “Little Jun has told me everything about the farm battle. I cannot believe it is so exciting. Master could be even better than Bai Qi. If Master fields an army in the future, I am sure you will be undefeated.”
Xiang Shaolong smiled to himself; this is his worst fear
. Since Xiao Pan has this idea already, he will have to act accordingly sooner or later. Luckily, it is not an immediate concern. Changing the topic, he asked: “How did Lu Buwei shift the blame off himself?”
A cold murderous look flashed past Xiao Pan’s eyes. He detailed: “He released them unconditionally and find a few scapegoats to be executed, saying they are the masterminds. Thus, there is no way we can verify anything. If not for the Black Dragon scheme, I would have summoned him privately and kill him personally. Hng! Meng Ao deserves to be killed too. Fortunately, he has two capable sons.”
He faced Xiang Shaolong and implored: “Has the Black Dragon been completed?”
Xiang Shaolong explained the details.
Xiao Pan sighed: “Thank Heavens that Master has came up with this miraculous solution or I would not know how to counter Lu Buwei. Hei! My success today is all owed…”
Xiang Shaolong interrupted: “Don’t say such things. Crown Prince has been chosen by Heaven to unite the world. As your subordinate, I am just doing my best!”
Deeply moved, Xiao Pan could not say anything for a while. Finally, he sighed: “Yesterday, Empress moved to Oasis Palace!”
Oasis Palace is situated north of the city among other royal buildings. It is considered to be a position that opposes the main palace. Since Zhu Ji has moved there without her son, their relationship must be in dire straits.
Xiang Shaolong frowned: “Did you have a big fight with her?”
With a wronged expression, Xiao Pan shook his head: “On the contrary. I have listened to Master’s instructions and did my best to repair my relationship with her. When she brought up the topic of moving to Oasis Palace, I did my best to make her stay but she was completely oblivious to my pleas. I smell a rat too. Hei! Actually, it is better that she moved out. I need not witness her scandalous acts.”
Xiang Shaolong understands that he is referring to Zhu Ji and Lao Ai’s illicit affair. He felt funny too. By right, Zhu Ji should stay in the palace to maintain her influence over politics and power. Why did she choose to leave Xianyang Palace? He had a brainwave and recalled Qin Qing. Based on her information network, she is the best person to investigate this strange behaviour.
Xiang Shaolong questioned: “Does she partake in the morning court sessions and official meetings?”
Xiao Pan smiled: “Of course she will not give up her power. She may not always be present but insists that every edict must be approved by her regardless of importance. Now, dealing with her is even more difficult than before. The most annoying issue is the rise of Lao Ai. Acting like her spokesman, he has been quite vocal and is always sowing discord between Empress and others. I wish I can kill him with one stroke.”
After a short contemplation, Xiang Shaolong laughed: “Since this is the case, we should support him and make him the official representative of Empress. With his insatiable ambition, he will clash with Lu Buwei sooner or later. When that happens, we can sit by the side and enjoy a good show.”
Xiao Pan is incensed: “But every time I see him, I am so irritated…”
Xiang Shaolong smilingly cut him off: “To achieve big things, we must have tolerance and real skills, doing what others cannot do. Ultimately, Lao Ai is only a clown who is only good at ganging up with other crooks. The damage he can cause can never match up to Lu Buwei. He is only good with the Empress backing him. In other’s opinion, he is still Lu Buwei’s man but if we can make him more powerful, it is as good as creating more trouble for Lu Buwei. Crown Prince, I think we should tolerate him for a few more years!”
Xiao Pan realised: “Master is right. As long as I am not coroneted, I have to give face to Empress. Hei! Before she moved, she insisted that I make Lao Ao a marquis. I declined immediately. From that day onwards, she refused to co sign my edicts, making it hard for the officials to begin their work. Ai! I guess I have to comply with her.”
Xiang Shaolong commented: “A wise man act according to circ.u.mstances. Crown Prince can let Empress know that after the Spring Festival, when it is time to make new changes, you will promote Lao Ai to be a marquis.”
Xiao Pan was perplexed: “It is not so easy. Empress even wanted me to promote a few of his cronies. For example, Lao Ai wants his own clansman Lao Si to be the Interior Minister. There is also Ling Qi and Han Jie who are his new recruits. Empress wants them to be promoted too and I can feel a headache coming.”
Xiang Shaolong already saw this coming. Without these implementations, Lao Ai will not dare to rebel in the future.
He comforted: “No matter how powerful they grow, they cannot accomplish much. To gain Empress’s support, Crown Prince has to bear with this. Don’t fret. Lu Buwei’s headache is worse than yours!”
Xiao Pan thought about it and laughed: “Somehow, everything is easily solved when they come to you. I will follow Master’s advice.”
After further discussion, Xiang Shaolong left the palace and went to find Qin Qing.
They had only parted shortly but Xiang Shaolong is already here to see her. Qin Qing is especially delighted and received him in the inner hall.
Since they mated, Xiang Shaolong has to focus on his training so they did not have any more close contact. Meeting her in the inner hall, they both felt intimacy and some awkwardness at the same time. It was simply refreshing and yet they felt lost too.
In the end, Xiang Shaolong held her hand and asked: “Have you heard that Empress is moving to Oasis Palace?”
Qin Qing’s eye brows tightened and she whispered: “I knew it the moment I came back. The attendants she brought to the Oasis Palace are all her own people so I am afraid I cannot conduct any investigation for you.”
Pulling her to the rear garden, Xiang Shaolong and Qin Qing came to a bridge and sat down on the railings. With one hand hugging her slender waist, Xiang Shaolong pondered; “There must be a reason for her moving. I wonder what it is.”
With his arm around her, Qin Qing’s body turned soft instantly and leaned onto him, pressing her own leg against his. Despite the cold winter, her face is burning hot like the summer sun. She joyfully whined: “Can Official Xiang watch his behaviour? The servants may see us!”
Xiang Shaolong let out a loud laugh and lifted her to sit on his lap.
Qin Qing cried out in panic and lost her balance. When she straightened herself, her lips are already locked onto his.
After a round of kissing and teasing, a satisfied Xiang Shaolong exclaimed: “This is to punish you for calling me Official Xiang. Do you plead guilty?”
Qin Qing was feeling sweet in her heart. Shooting him a charming look, she wailed; “So domineering!”
Xiang Shaolong is intoxicated by her charm. He hates himself for losing his ability to conceive after coming to this era. If he can impregnate Qin Qing or Ji Yanran, it will be really blissful. Thinking about this, his body shook uncontrollably.
Seeing his changed expression, Qin Qing was shocked: “What is it?”
Looking at the far distance, Xiang Shaolong whispered: “This is bad. Empress must be pregnant.”
Stepping into the Wu Residence, he heard that Zou Yan is back. Xiang Shaolong is overjoyed and inquired on his whereabouts. Zou Yan is chatting with Ji Yanran in the inner chamber and he hurriedly joined them.
Looking great as normal, Zou Yan is also glad to see Xiang Shaolong.
Ji Yanran has already told him the reason for inviting him back. After dinner, Zou Yan dragged Xiang Shaolong to the garden pavilion for a chat. Ji Yanran naturally tagged along. Snowflakes are flying through the sky and illuminated by their lamps, making it a pleasant sight.
Xiang Shaolong embarra.s.sedly began: “Because of us, we have to bother G.o.dfather to come all the way here. We are really…”
Zou Yan chuckled and interrupted: “Since when did Shaolong become so polite? You need not feel bad as I am also thinking of travelling back to Qi and see my old friends.”
Xiang Shaolong remembered Shan Rou and was about to say something when Ji Yanran indicated: “You need not say it. I have already told G.o.dfather to help us search for Sister Rou. Based on his contacts in Qi, this should be an easy task.”
He was beginning to get worried about Shan Rou. Thus, Xiang Shaolong is comforted to know this news. Shan Rou’s swordsmanship is outstanding so it should be easy to locate her.
Sitting down beside a stone table, Zou Yan’s eyes twinkled and he state in a deep voice: “To think that in my senior years, I, Zou Yan, is able to help cultivate a New Saint. There are many miracles in this world but none are as amazing as this.”
Ji Yanran gently informed Xiang Shaolong: “G.o.dfather has completed his masterpiece > and has ordered me to safe keep it for him!”
Xiang Shaolong was feeling strange about this. In a way, he understood that Zou Yan can foresee the future and know that Xiao Pan will unite the world. Therefore, he decided to leave his masterpiece in Qin. Otherwise, it may be destroyed or lost during wars. He was inspired: “G.o.dfather, feel free to tell us what to do with your >.”
His eyes shining with pleasure, Zou Yan smiled: “When the Black Dragon appears, Shaolong will be responsible for presenting it to Crown Prince Zheng. This is a hundred times better than me propagating it.”
Ji Yanran was blown away: “G.o.dfather is leaving us before the Black Dragon event?”
Zou Yan shook his head, sighing: “Heaven has its plans and I don’t think I can wait so long. Even if you two did not look for me, I would have looked for you to settle my last wishes.”
Ji Yanran’s face lost colour at once. Taking a panic look at Xiang Shaolong, she wailed: “G.o.dfather!”
Zou Yan gave a carefree laugh: “Spring leaves and Summer comes. This is nature and humans are the same. Yanran, do you not understand?”
Ji Yanran is not ordinary person. Forcing a smile, she agreed; “G.o.dfather is right! Thanks for the advice.”
Xiang Shaolong nodded in agreement. Feeling melancholic, he recited the words of the famous Song Dynasty philosopher Su Shi: “Humans meet and part, undergo joy and sorrow. The moon becomes full and crescent dependingly. G.o.dfather is right.”
Zou Yan is astounded and stared at him along with Ji Yanran for a while before praising: “Shaolong is very better than me in seeing past life and death.” Pausing, he added: “Lu Buwei still has some luck on his side. Before the Crown Prince coronation, Shaolong must bear with him. Do not confront him directly and I can rest in peace.”
Xiang Shaolong could not help but sincerely respect him from the bottom of his heart. Zou Yan is surely the most intelligent man during this ancient period. Only he, Xiang Shaolong, can truly appreciate his deep wisdom. No wonder his five virtues theory is able to spread far and wide, applying to politics, science and even the arts.
Zou Yan continued to stare at the falling snow in silence.
Ji Yanran softly asked: “G.o.dfather! When we create a Black Dragon like this, are we deceiving the G.o.ds?”
Zou Yan laughed: “It is something really creative! But Heaven has decreed that the new Saint will be Crown Prince Zheng whose rise will be due to Shaolong’s efforts. Although the six states have some might now, they are fools who plot against one another. In the future when the Crown Prince has received full authority, the end of the six states will be in sight.”
Xiang Shaolong was astonished: “After all, G.o.dfather is a Qi native. Why are you not worried about your own country’s fate?”
Zou Yan calmly replied: “Qi just happens to be my birth place. My mission is to help unite the world. Moreover, the present King is an idi0t. Thinking about this, I could not help but feel angry.”
Ji Yanran added: “G.o.dfather and I have the same view. Only when the world is united can the people enjoy real peace and harmony. But when I thought of Shaolong’s ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’, I am concerned that Crown Prince Zheng may change and is no longer the wise and responsible person he is now. That is a system flaw.”
Xiang Shaolong unwittingly let out Heaven’s Secret: “This will only change when the people become democratic and rule the country as a representative group of people rather than a single monarch. But that will only take place around two thousand years later.”
Zou Yan and Ji Yanran are totally swept away. After exchanging looks with each other, Ji Yanran curiously asked: “How can there be such a system? How does hubby know for sure that this will take place two thousand years later?”
Kicking himself, Xiang Shaolong shook his head and awkwardly replied: “I am just making a wild guess!”
Zou Yan smiled: “Shaolong often speaks with great wisdom, proving that you are no ordinary man. Otherwise, my dear daughter will not love you wholeheartedly.”
He looked up to the sky again. The moon and stars are absent and the sky is filled with countless snowflakes. He bleakly concluded: “It is late! I need to rest early. Tomorrow, I will head back to Qi.”
Xiang Shaolong and Ji Yanran exchanged a glance, understanding that this great philosopher has consulted astrology and predicted that his death is near.
This is their last reunion.