Volume 3, Chapter 42: Cool Breeze and Bright Moon1

Accepting the paper made of cotton sent by Dong Que, I read its contents, taking some notes on another piece of paper. Dong Que had explained everything that had happened. Although Dong Que’s retaliation methods were quite spiteful and cruel, in comparison, my methods were probably far more ruthless and vicious. As a result, I did not seek to blame or rebuke Dong Que. Ignoring the deep enmity between him and Li Hanyou, I always believed that one should take responsibility for one’s actions. Furthermore, I believed that rather than waiting for the Heavens’ retribution, it was better for me to do it. Otherwise why would I try to cause trouble for an empire’s crown prince?

After I had collated the information about the secret branches of the Fengyi Sect that could be handed over to the Prince of Yong, I dispatched someone to invite His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Yong. During the short gap before the Prince of Yong arrived, I asked Xiaoshunzi, “Tell me, how should Wei daren’s situation be handled?”

After thinking it over, Xiaoshunzi answered, “With Wei Ying’s vicious and merciless methods, there is no point in leaving Wei daren alive. In addition, the father and son relationship between the two is quite deep. I fear that Wei daren can’t be used to deal with his son. It is best to kill him, so that the Embroidered Union can gain the trust of the Fengyi Sect. What does young master think?”

“Although Wei Guan did not participate in the coup d’état,” I replied, after some thought, “As the head of the civil officials and failing to manage his household strictly, he should be punished. Moreover, it is impossible that he did not know what Wei Ying was doing; it is only that he could not anticipate that Wei Ying would actually participate in a rebellion. He would look favorably upon the Crown Prince’s succession. Wei Ying is truly intelligent. If Wei Guan remains alive, then he would naturally be forced to place righteousness over his family and seek to exterminate Wei Ying. But if Wei Guan were to die, then many of his students and friends would remember their past relationships and potentially be lenient towards Wei Ying. However, Wei Ying is being too clever. Human relationships are superficial when the individual departs.2 That leniency will not be much of an impediment, at most being of use when the Fengyi Sect retreats from Great Yong. In addition, with the Prince of Yong’s cutting edge present, who would dare to act out of personal consideration towards a treasonous rebel like Wei Ying?

“How about this? Allow Wei Guan to commit suicide. There is no need to be meddlesome. Simply have the imperial bodyguards monitoring him relax a bit and have them speak a few words of slanderous gossip. What do we have to fear that Wei Guan wouldn’t succeed in his suicide?”

At this moment, Xiaoshunzi gave me a meaningful glance. I immediately understood that His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Yong, had arrived and did not continue. I rose to my feet to welcome him. Accompanied by Shi Yu and Xiahou Yuanfeng, the Prince of Yong walked over. From the look on the face of His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Yong, I could tell that his mood was very good. Stepping forward and saluting, I stated, “It is this subject’s capital offense to trouble Your Imperial Highness to come.” As I begged forgiveness, I gazed at Xiahou Yuanfeng. When did the Prince of Yong trust him so implicitly?

Seeing the hesitation in Jiang Zhe’s gaze, the Prince of Yong was also somewhat annoyed, regretting his decision to bring along Xiahou Yuanfeng. However, this man had been quite competent and diligent these last few days. With his help, the purge of the crown prince’s faction within the palace and the court had proceeded quite smoothly. Moreover, this man’s consideration for his thoughts was extremely rare. Two days ago, when Jiang Zhe entered the palace on private business, were it not for Xiahou Yuanfeng delivering the news, it would have been too late for the Prince of Yong to smooth things over. As a result, lately, he had gradually included Xiahou Yuanfeng amongst his trusted subordinates. Because of this, Shi Yu and company were all dissatisfied. Could it be that Jiang Zhe was dissatisfied as well? Somewhat awkwardly, the Prince of Yong laughed and replied, “Suiyun, how has your recovery been these last few days? This Prince has some important matters to discuss with you.”

After inviting the Prince of Yong and company to take their seats, I handed the information that I had organized on the secret branches of the Fengyi Sect over to the Prince of Yong. I said, “Your Imperial Highness, this is a list of the secret branches of the Fengyi Sect that this subject was able to find. Your Imperial Highness, please choose the proper moment to thoroughly control these secret branches. However, it is best if we do not act right way, so as to prevent the Fengyi Sect from becoming suspicions of this subordinate’s operatives.”

The Prince of Yong took the list. After looking at it for some time, he sighed with admiration. “Suiyun, your operatives seem to be more formidable than those of Imperial Father’s and this Prince’s. This Prince only knows about thirty to forty percent of these secret branches, and they were only just discovered these last few days.”

I was able to hear the implications in the Prince of Yong’s words. He wished to fold my personal operatives into his own operations. However, now wasn’t the right time to hand over either the Pavilion of Heavenly Secrets or the Embroidered Union to the Prince of Yong. After all, if it were discovered that the Prince of Yong had relations with either of those organizations, then the two organizations would become useless. In order to dispel the Prince of Yong’s intentions and to change the subject, I sat back down. Gently fanning the folding fan in my hands, I replied, “Sunzi’s Art of War states that there are five types of spies—local spies, internal spies, double agents, expendable spies, and surviving spies. Originally, Your Imperial Highness was extremely adept at using of spies.

“I have heard Sir Dong speak that whenever Your Imperial Highness’s army is marching, wherever you reach, you would assemble locals, personally questioning them about the area. It could be said that Your Imperial Highness is adept at using local spies. Years ago, Great Yong planted Liang Wan as a spy in Southern Chu. She could be said to be a expendable spy. Through Liang Wan, Great Yong was able to bribe and deter the Southern Chu officialdom. They can be considered as internal spies. When Your Imperial Highness was establishing your personal household guard, you established a scout unit within. These specialists tasked with reconnaissance and military intelligence can be considered as surviving spies. As for double agents, didn’t Your Imperial Highness use the discord ploy while campaigning in Shu, forcing the Prince of De to urgently attack Luocheng?”

Somewhat embarrassed, Li Zhi replied, “How can this Prince’s ability to use spies match with Suiyun’s?” Glancing at Xiahou Yuanfeng, Li Zhi knew that there were some things that were best kept from this new convert and thus did not speak any further. In reality, Li Zhi could only prostrate himself with admiration at Jiang Zhe’s usage of spies. Without Jiang Zhe’s arrangements, how could the crown prince have lost the emperor’s grace? Without Jiang Zhe’s arrangements, how could Xiahou Yuanfeng be converted to his cause to reverse the desperate situation? Since ancient times, famous generals were only known for their ability to command their own subordinates, while Jiang Zhe was skilled at using the enemy’s strength for his own purposes against themselves. Naturally, Li Zhi would not be able to learn how to use spies in such a godly manner.

“The flaw in Your Imperial Highness’s use of spies is that you only use it against your enemies,” I continued, smiling. “As a result, although Your Imperial Highness very clearly understood what was going on by the former Crown Prince’s side, you knew little of what was going on at the sides of those neutral individuals like Wei daren and Grand General Qin. The incident at the Hunting Palace was a direct result of this oversight. To say nothing else, Your Imperial Highness must know that this subject has some private matters that I have kept hidden. However, Your Imperial Highness has never been suspicious. Although this is because of Your Imperial Highness’s refusal to be suspicious of those that you employ, now Your Imperial Highness has become Great Yong’s heir apparent and soon-to-be monarch. All of the world’s talents will all come to pledge their allegiance. Don’t tell me that Your Imperial Highness will not have misgivings about all of them and not employ those suspicious? Therefore, this subject recommends that Your Imperial Highness create another department, establishing an information network within the court tasked with supervising and monitoring the court and the common people. Only then will Your Imperial Highness’s sovereign power be guaranteed, and the empire and Chang’an be stabilized.”

“If this department were established, it would cause the great alarm in the entire court,” replied Shi Yu, frowning. “In addition, with this, the individual responsible for this department of inspection would inevitably have too much authority. Quite the problem.” As he spoke, he gazed at me with suspicion, clearly suspecting that I wanted to take control of this department.

I smiled placidly. “This will depend on Your Imperial Highness’s arrangements. As long as Your Imperial Highness separates the supervisory and punishment role in two, this department will be unable to overturn and overthrow the Heavens. As for whether it will cause alarm and panic, that will be based upon its behavior and conduct. And that will be dependent on Your Imperial Highness yourself. As long as Your Imperial Highness does not only rely upon the reports from the department of inspection to charge individuals with crimes, then how could the court be thrown into an uproar? As long as the activities do not affect the empire or aren’t treasonous in nature, Your Imperial Highness does not have to take those reports seriously. But with important matters, Your Imperial Highness can plan ahead and be prepared.”3

Li Zhi listened to my words conscientiously, taking them to heart. A splendid and breathtaking look flashed across his eyes. When I had finished speaking, he opened his mouth and acknowledged, “This Prince has long desired to create a department of inspection within the palace. Suiyun, are you willing to take charge of it?”

“Your Imperial Highness, although Zhe is skilled at using spies,” I advised, smiling faintly, “It is best that a meticulous and attentive individual be assigned to this task. This subject has always been sloppy. How can I assume such a heavy responsibility? Moreover, this subject has only just recovered from my illness and should spend my time carefully nursing my health. I’m afraid that this subject won’t be able to handle this kind of demanding work.”

Shock flashed across Shi Yu and Xiahou Yuanfeng’s eyes. They both anticipated that Jiang Zhe desired to personally take this supervisory authority. To their surprise, Jiang Zhe had actually declined the appointment. Filled with guilt and shame, Shi Yu thought, I should have remembered that Jiang Zhe has always been a lofty and unsullied character, disinterested in struggling for power and profit.

In comparison, Xiahou Yuanfeng’s eyes were radiating a passionate light. This department of inspection seemed to be specifically tailored for him. He was confident that he had the qualifications to take charge of this position that operated in the dark. Moreover, although this position’s official rank was low, the power and authority afforded it would be enormous. If someone else were to take this position, it would inevitably cause the Prince of Yong to worry and fear. This was probably why Jiang Zhe had resolutely declined the position. However, as a former member of the Crown Prince’s faction, all of the Prince of Yong’s subordinates in high positions within the army and government fundamentally were on guard against him. If he were to assume such a role, the Prince of Yong would naturally be reassured, as he only had the Prince of Yong as his patron. In order to safeguard the Prince of Yong’s governance, he would undoubtedly leave no stone unturned, not daring to be lax nor daring to have any thoughts about betrayal.

At this moment, Li Zhi also thought of this point, and could not help but glance at Xiahou Yuanfeng. Reacting quickly, Xiahou Yuanfeng immediately displayed a look of wholehearted loyalty. Li Zhi nodded his head lightly, not saying any words.

I took in the entire interaction, feeling happy. In reality, even if I had not made this suggestion, the Prince of Yong would have thought of establishing a mechanism to supervise the court. For me to take the initiative and make the suggestion, and yet refuse to take charge, the Prince of Yong would certainly trust me even more. The Prince of Yong would also inevitably think of Xiahou Yuanfeng as the perfect candidate to take charge, as his future was entirely dependent upon the Prince of Yong. As far as I was concerned, I also believed that Xiahou Yuanfeng was a good candidate. Although he was fickle and changeable, possessing an insidious mind, he was also adaptable to changing circumstances. He understood how formidable I was. Unless the Prince of Yong wished to kill me, he would absolutely not cause trouble for me.

After some time, the Prince of Yong came to his senses and said, “Suiyun, in a few days the ceremony anointing this Prince as heir apparent will be held. You have contributed the most and must come attend the ceremony.”

I naturally agreed cheerfully before asking, “Your Imperial Highness, after you have become the heir apparent, Your Imperial Highness will formally take charge of the governance of the empire. Have you made the proper arrangements?”

The Prince of Yong answered, “This Prince has already reported some of my arrangements to Imperial Father. Because he is suspected of treason, Director Wei Guan of the Imperial Secretariat can no longer serve as Prime Minister. Imperial Father desires to name Palace Attendant Zheng Xia as the new Director of the Imperial Secretariat. This Prince has already agreed. Imperial Father has also agreed to have Ziyou serve as Right Vice Director of the Department of State Affairs.”

Clapping my hands, I replied, “As expect, Your Imperial Highness is enlightened. Although Sir Ziyou has the talent to be Prime Minister, his qualifications aren’t enough for him to enter the Department of State Affairs right now. In addition, with the court in turmoil, Palace Attendant Zheng has a prestigious reputation as a man of virtue. With him in control the Imperial Secretariat, everything will be controlled. The Right Vice Director of the Department of State Affairs is one of the ranking ministers of the court. The current Director is a weak and ineffectual man, allowing Ziyou to have a free hand. The Department of State Affairs administers the Six Ministries. Your Imperial Highness can use this opportunity to reform the Six Ministries. After a few years, Sir Ziyou can enter the Imperial Secretariat. However, with this, who will take the position of Palace Attendant? This position requires a firm and daring individual willing to remonstrate the Emperor.”

Smiling, Li Zhi replied, “As expected, Suiyun understands the profound intentions behind this decision. Allowing Palace Attendant Zheng to take charge of the Imperial Secretariat will precisely meet everyone’s expectations. As for the new Palace Attendant, this Prince already has a candidate in mind. I have already decided to appoint the Duke of Wei, Cheng Shu, to the position.”

I was startled, as I asked, “The Duke of Wei?” Within my mind emerged Duke Cheng Shu’s indolent and lackadaisical appearance.

Laughing, Shi Yu spoke up, “That’s right. Although the Duke of Wei usually appears to be frivolous,4 his character is actually loyal and straightforward. He shall be the Palace Attendant because, although he will transfer from a military official to become a civil minister, first, His Imperial Highness does not wish for him to return to the battlefield and second, allow His Imperial Majesty to not worry.”

After thinking it over, I realized that the Duke of Wei was truly the best candidate for the position. At the time, when the Fengyi Sect’s power was overpowering, that old geezer was one of the few individuals who dared to take a stand on matters of principle. Moreover, he had a close relationship with the emperor and would be an excellent middleman to prevent conflict between Zheng Xia and Shi Yu.

His excitement roused, the Prince of Yong continued, “In addition, the Grand General has already decided to resign. This Prince has already nominated General Qin Yong to command the Imperial Guard. Thus, Imperial Father and this Prince can both rest easily.”

I smiled slightly. It seemed like Zheng Xia, Qin Yi, and Cheng Shu, these pure, unadulterated ministers were genuine evergreen trees.

At this moment, Li Zhi suddenly glanced at me. Somewhat uneasy, he said, “However, there is one matter of which this Prince has let you down. This Prince had once asked Imperial Father to betroth Changle and you. However, Imperial Father was concerned with your poor health and was unwilling to issue such an edict. You can be reassured that in a year or two, as your health improves, this Prince will definitely ask Imperial Father again. In addition, there is no need for you to worry. Imperial Father has already conferred the title of Princess of Ning upon Princess Changle and has begun construction of her official residence. Imperial Father won’t force Changle to marry anyone else. The two of you are still young. You will surely be able to enjoy marital bliss in a year or two.”

I snickered inwardly. I had long known that the Prince of Yong had been seeking to raise this subject to console me and prevent me from being discouraged. As a result, I adopted a facial expression that seemed to be filled with disappointment and frustration. In the subsequent discussions, it seemed like my attention was elsewhere, somewhat disorderly in my speech. Ultimately, the Prince of Yong could only bid his farewell and depart. After the Prince of Yong had left, I immediately summoned Xiaoshunzi, telling him that the plan had begun.

***

In order to rapidly stabilize the situation, the ceremony to anoint the new crown prince was held on the twenty-fifth day of the tenth month. On that day, due to falling ill and becoming bedridden, Major Jiang Zhe of the Prince of Yong was unable to participate. As a result, when an ordinary-looking carriage departed through the city gate, no one suspected that I was within the carriage. I had changed into an ordinary-looking set of azure robes. While playing with the folding fan in my hands, I wondered if there were any flaws in my plans. I had long ago made the decision to depart while the Prince of Yong was being enfeoffed as the new crown prince. First, there was no point for me to remain by the Prince of Yong’s side with my vengeance wrought. His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Yong, had plenty of individuals capable of administering the state and commanding its armies. Aside from this, I was also giving thought to His Imperial Highness. By showing my abilities within the Hunting Palace, I had not only caused Great Master True Compassion and others to be afraid, individuals like Zheng Xia and Qin Yi would inevitably tremble inside. If I were to remain at the Prince of Yong’s side, they would always be worried that His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Yong, would use my sinister and insidious stratagems. Rather than have them suspect the Prince of Yong’s straightforward and upright intentions, I had best depart. With the Prince of Yong’s status, there was no need for him to be tainted by retaining the services of a strategist who relied upon sinister and cunning schemes. As a result, I had decided to depart long ago. Beyond all this, one of the reasons that I chose to depart was the refusal on the part of the Yong emperor to betroth Changle to me.

Therefore, I had seized this opportunity while the entire Prince of Yong’s household was busy with the ceremony. First, I had Xiaoshunzi pick up Roulan. Then, taking advantage of the lax security, under Chen Zhen and Han Wuji’s support, I departed from Chang’an. For the entire journey, I had prepared layer upon layer of red herrings, allowing me to disappear without a hitch into the sea of people.

Gently caressing the face of the sleeping Roulan, I heaved a sigh. The only regret that I had was the princess. We were star-crossed lovers. Now as the Princess of Ning, Princess Changle’s status was even more honored and respectable. How could I have her wander the world with me? Besides, it was possible that I would never return to Great Yong.

Departing from the Illustrious Virtue Gate, I could not help but recall being taken prisoner by the Prince of Yong and being brought under escort to Chang’an. I helplessly upturned the corner of my lips. Although only two years had passed, the impression left on my heart by Chang’an was intense and profound. It could be assumed that regardless of where I went, I would always remember the sights and sounds of Chang’an.

After going for some distance, Xiaoshunzi’s voice suddenly floated into the carriage, “Young master, an honored individual has come to see you off.”

I was startled. Outside of my subordinates, no one knew of my departure from Chang’an. How could there be someone seeing me off? Lifting aside the curtains to the carriage, my gaze immediately froze. Within the pavilion on the side of the road up ahead, a woman in plain, unadorned dress stood. Her beautiful, thick hair stood tall. Around her was wrapped a heavy, emerald-green cloak. At her side was a refined woman over thirty years old. There was also a delicate and fair teenager. I uttered a cry of surprise. The three were Princess Changle, Head Maid Zhou, and Xiaoliuzi. What was going on? With Xiaoshunzi’s help, I stepped out of the carriage. Entering the pavilion, I urgently asked, “Your Imperial Highness, how have you come to see me off?”

Grudgingly, Princess Changle replied, “Were it not for Xiaoshunzi’s report, were you going to depart henceforth in spite of Our deep love?”

Embarrassed, I responded, “Your Imperial Highness, from henceforth, Zhe is only a commoner. The Princess’s status is still respected and honored. Regardless of everything else, the title of Princess Ning will ensure that Your Imperial Highness will spend the rest of your life with glory and honor. I …”

Princess Changle outstretched her delicate hands, covering my mouth. In a beautiful, sonorous voice, she replied, “We do not care about any of that. We only know that We do not owe anything more to Great Yong. Imperial Father and Mother are both healthy. In addition, older brother will scrupulously perform his filial duties. If you do not scorn me, I am willing to accompany you and depart. From henceforth, let us pass our days in an ordinary manner, becoming a simple, common, loving couple.”

I was no longer able to restrain the ecstasy inside. It wasn’t that I didn’t think of eloping with Changle and going far away. However, the title the emperor had conferred caused me to shrink back. The title of Princess of Ning was not randomly given. All daughters of the imperial clan could obtain the title of princess. However, those titles typically contained two characters. An example was the original title of Princess Changle (长乐), which meant “everlasting happiness.” Princess Changle was only given the title of the Princess of Ning, a title with only a singular character, because of her enormous contributions to pacifying the former crown prince’s rebellion. Since ancient times, there were very few princesses who were able to obtain such a title with only a singular character. Therefore, I had given up. Who could have expected that Princess Changle would be willing to renounce this rare distinction to accompany me?

Taking a step forward, I wrapped my hands around Princess Changle’s hands. I said, “Your Imperial Highness, Zhe is indebted to your grace and cannot thank you enough. Although Zhe is only a commoner, I will ensure that Princess will receive happiness.”

A captivating crimson blush crept onto Princess Changle’s beautiful countenance. She whispered, “If I didn’t believe in you, why would I have been willing to come? However, you should stop calling me Imperial Highness and Princess. My name is Li Zhen. From now on, call me Zhen’er.”

Feeling the swelling tides of tender and loving feelings well up from my heart, I whispered, “Zhen’er, I will definitely not turn my back upon you.”

Thinking of her years of bitter longing finally coming to an end today, Princess Changle’s eyes instinctively reddened. She threw herself into my embrace. Hugging her pampered body tightly to me, I shot a glance of gratitude towards Xiaoshunzi. Without him acting on his own initiative, I likely would truly be alone until my dying days. Xiaoshunzi smiled slightly, not speaking a word.

I helped Princess Changle into the carriage. Head Maid Zhou and Xiaoliuzi boarded the carriage behind. Both of them were loyal and devoted to Princess Changle. In addition, in order to prevent them from being punished for losing the princess, they were going to accompany us.

The carriage set off once again. Holding onto Princess Changle’s delicate hands, I only felt joy in my heart. After all is said and done, the Heavens finally showed concern for me, allowing me to obtain such a caring and intimate lover after losing Piaoxiang. I couldn’t care less how the emperor and the Prince of Yong would react to this news. In any case, I had no intentions of returning to that fighting and scheming court.

When the Prince of Yong returned to his residence after formally being instated as the crown prince, he quickly received news that Jiang Zhe had disappeared. He hurriedly rushed to the Cold Courtyard only to discover that all of the imperial bodyguards had had their acupoints sealed. All of the gifts that the Prince of Yong had bestowed upon Jiang Zhe had been sealed and left behind, none of them missing. All of the documents and letters were catalogued and listed, indicating where some were collected, which ones were already burned and destroyed. Upon the desk was a letter from Jiang Zhe. Removing it from its envelope, Li Zhi discovered a four-line poem.

Returned and stored are the gold and girdles,

Spread has this news to all the mortals.

All the world covets the Cold Courtyard’s guest,

Just a simple student from Jiangnan.5

Heaving a sigh, L i Zhi sat down in the chair, stating, “Don’t tell Us that We were still unable to completely win you over?”

At this moment, Xiahou Yuanfeng spoke up, “Your Imperial Highness, there may be some news that will brighten Your Imperial Highness’s mood.”

Li Zhi’s brows arched, expressing his doubts. With a smile on his face, Xiahou Yuanfeng continued, “Just now, when this subject received news that Jiang daren had departed, I had people investigate. It seems that Princess Changle also left the palace today. In addition, the Princess only brought along Head Maid Zhou, a little eunuch, and some guards. However, those guards responsible for her protection have already returned to the palace, begging for forgiveness, because they also had their acupoints sealed by someone. It was only with great difficulty that they were able to disengage themselves and return to report the situation. Her Imperial Highness has disappeared.”

Li Zhi’s eyes brightened. He asked, “Are you telling me that Changle eloped with Jiang Zhe?”

Xiahou Yuanfeng respectfully responded, “This subject does not dare to jump to unfounded conclusions. However, Your Imperial Highness, if there is no news of the Princess, then she should have departed with Jiang daren.”

Laughing heartily, Li Zhi replied, “Good, good! Changle finally has the courage and drive. As long as Suiyun becomes Our brother-in-law, We won’t have to worry. Sooner or later, he will return.”

Frowning, he continued, “However, Imperial Father is probably going to be angry. I should enter the palace as soon as possible to mollify his rage.”

Just then, Shi Yu hurriedly walked in. He said, “Your Imperial Highness, a report from the northern frontier! Long Tingfei has mobilized an army and has marched out of the Mingshui Pass,6 invading Zhenzhou. It is a military emergency!”

Li Zhi’s blade-like brows jumped and he replied, “They have come as expected. Immediately issue an edict. This Prince will personally go meet the enemy head on.”

Shi Yu categorically refused, stating, “Your Imperial Highness, this won’t do. Before, as an Imperial Prince who commanded the army, you naturally could lead the army into battle. Things are different now that you are the heir apparent who has responsibility for governance of the empire. At present, the internal situation has not yet been fully pacified. Your Imperial Highness must remain in the capital to control the overall situation, otherwise Your Imperial Highness will be risk the big picture for small things.7 Moreover, with the change of Your Imperial Highness’s status, you cannot put yourself in danger like before.”

Li Zhi’s brows tensed up. He had not yet adapted to his new status. For a time, he was caught in the dilemma. Aside from him, who else could lead troops into battle? Great Yong had plenty of generals, but it would be extremely difficult to find a commander-in-chief capable of stopping Long Tingfei. Glancing at the letter left behind by Jiang Zhe on the desk, Li Zhi forced a smile and stated, “Suiyun, how could you leave Us at this moment?”

Suddenly, Xiahou Yuanfeng observed, “Your Imperial Highness, there seem to be words on the back of the letter.”

Li Zhi was startled before stepping over and picking up the letter. Sure enough, there were words written on the back. They said:

Northern Han will certainly seize this opportunity to send troops and violate Great Yong’s borders. The only one who can serve as the commander-in-chief is the Prince of Qi, Li Xian. If Your Imperial Highness treats him with sincerity, His Imperial Highness, the Prince of Qi, will bend his head and obey.

After reading its contents, Li Zhi was left dumbfounded, holding the letter for some time, a multitude of expressions flashing across his face. He did not speak for a long while. At this time, an imperial bodyguard rushed over to report. “Your Imperial Highness, all of the daren have gathered in the main hall, awaiting Your Imperial Highness’s arrival to discuss official business.”

Returning to his senses, Li Zhi smiled slightly, stating, “We will go immediately. Send Our orders. From henceforth, this Cold Courtyard is to be sealed. No one is permitted to enter without permission. All of the courtyard’s servants are to remain. They are to carefully maintain this courtyard without negligence.” Finished speaking, Li Zhi flicked his sleeve and walked out. There were still many important matters for him to attend to.

It was already late autumn. The bright moon hung high in the sky, while a cool breeze blew through the courtyard. Walking through the Cold Courtyard, Li Zhi was filled with a sense of grandeur. Northern Han, Southern Chu, just you wait. My Great Yong’s elite horsemen will very quickly come to conquer you!

Footnotes:

清风明月, qingfengmingyue – idiom, lit. cool breeze and bright moon; fig. peaceful and clear night, alludes to living a solitary and quiet life
人走茶凉, renzouchaliang – idiom, lit. no sooner has the person gone that the tea cools down; fig. once a person departs, his relationships become useless, superficiality of human relationships
未雨绸缪, weiyuchoumou – idiom, lit. before it rains, bind around with silk; fig. to plan ahead, to prepare for a rainy day
玩世不恭, wanshibugong – idiom, lit. to despise worldly conventions; fig. frivolous, without respect
This is based off of an untitled poem written by the Song Dynasty minister, Zhao Bian, upon his retirement from office.
明水关, mingshuiguan – lit. Clearwater Pass
因小失大, yinxiaoshida – idiom, lit. risk big things for the sake of small ones; fig. pennywise, pound-foolish

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