Li Chengjing could understand why the Emperor was partial to the Second Prince and pitied Empress Yang who had accompanied him for many years. But being able to understand didn’t mean he could accept it.
The Zhong family could let go of the hatred in order to have a peaceful life, but Li Chengjing couldn’t.
He could never let go.
Li Chengjing silently clenched Cheng Yujin’s hand. In the end, what he could do was wait patiently. As for right or wrong, win or defeat… time would show it in the end.
Cheng Yujin didn’t say a word. The relationship between Li Chengjing and the Emperor was inherently fragile. After so many ups and downs, the destruction of the Yang family became a turning point that finally turned the father and son against each other. Facing such a truth, any words paled in comparison, nor did Li Chengjing need them. Instead, Cheng Yujin hugged him silently, giving him the closest comfort. The two snuggled for a while, until Li Chengjing hugged Cheng Yujin horizontally and carried her into the bedchamber.
Cheng Yujin just indulged him. Humans were not made of iron and steel, and no matter how strong Li Chengjing appeared to be, he always had vulnerable times when he was in great need of comfort.
Having finally brought down the two great mountains of Yang Fucheng and Empress Dowager Yang, the Emperor finally tasted the true power an emperor should enjoy. For the first time since ascending the throne 25 years ago, the Emperor truly held the ultimate power in his hand, and everything must run according to his will. The Emperor was pretty much ready to show off his might, but the nasty headache greatly took a toll on his body, sapping the energy he needed to display his grand ideas.
The Emperor was very much annoyed, but the disease was persistent, and even the most skillful among the imperial physicians was made helpless. They had tried everything: acupuncture, medicine, massage… to little to no avail. When the headache flared, nothing could relieve it, and the Emperor could only endure until the pain subsided on its own.
The Emperor gradually stopped believing in the imperial physicians and started to place his hope in the more mystical techniques. He not only wanted health, but also began yearning for immortality.
Listening to the suggestions from his advisers, the Second Prince introduced several people to the Emperor. Among them was a Taoist priest, a thin yet strong-looking man who went by the name of Taoist Chongxu. According to this person’s claim, he had once saved a sacred white deer in Zhongnan Mountain, who gifted him an immortality pill as a token of gratitude. Later, he went into the mountain to track the traces of the white deer, only to end up living there in seclusion for almost two hundred years until he finally perfected his Taoism.
True to his words, Taoist Chongxu indeed did not look a mere mortal, as he had in him the aura of someone detached from the world. It was his appearance and — more importantly — his bizarre experience that immediately drew the Emperor to him. After listening intently to Taoist Chongxu’s experience in Taoism, it didn’t take long for the Emperor to be totally convinced and immediately named him a guest of honor.
From then on, Taoist Chongxu frequented the palace and taught the Emperor the method of prolonging life. No one knew what kind of medicine he gave the Emperor, but it indeed worked. The Emperor found that not only was his headache greatly relieved, but even his body became much more fit than before. Because of this, the Emperor trusted Taoist Chongxu even more, and dedicated the Yinghua Palace at the northwest corner of the inner palace as a place to meditate and learn about Taoism.
The Yinghua Palace was filled with incense all day long, along with endless recite of scriptures. The Emperor also stayed there every day, neglecting governmental affairs and strictly forbidding others from disturbing his cultivation. Because Taoist Chongxu was recommended by the Second Prince and the Second Prince was totally obedient to the Emperor, he was one of the few people allowed to enter and leave the Yinghua Palace at will.
Seeing the Emperor’s fascination with the art of Taoism, the entire court was shrouded in worry. There might be some truth in the story of Taoist Chongxu saving a deer, but anyone with a rational mind would never believe that he had lived for two hundred years. However, the problem here was that the Emperor now fully trusted the Taoist. No matter how anxious the courtiers were, they could only bear their dissatisfaction in silence.
Because of the frequent access of the priests, the heavily guarded imperial palace suddenly became a mess. Li Chengjing naturally did not believe a word in the so-called Taoism and immortality, but because of the Emperor, he was unable to say anything.
The Emperor originally placed his hope in Taoism and Buddhism in an attempt to seek a cure for his long-lasting headache after proper physicians failed him. If Li Chengjing uttered his protest at this time, it would make the impression of an ulterior motive. Li Chengjing had been enduring until now, but the Taoist priest, longer satisfied with gold and silver, slowly turned his attention to the imperial power.
It was human nature to never be fully content and happy. Once you had wealth in hand, you would start wishing for power.
Taoist Chongxu knew that Crown Prince had a high prestige both among the officials and common folks. For this reason, he didn’t dare to explicitly target the Crown Prince, but told the Emperor they needed to build a White Deer Pagoda. According to him, the qi circulating in the world underwent a drastic change when heaven and earth were separated at the beginning of Great Creation — pure qi went upward towards heaven, and turbid qi went downward to the earth. For this reason, cultivating in a place closer to heaven would achieve more results with half the effort. Moreover, Taoist Chongxu’s cultivation all came from the white deer’s guidance, so it was even more necessary to build a pagoda in its honor. Maybe this way, they could attract the white deer he encountered that year and ask it to grant another immortality pill to the Emperor.
The Emperor was easily persuaded and immediately ordered the construction of the White Deer Pagoda. Since Taoist Chongxu was the only one who knew what the mystical deer looked like and how to attract it back, he had an absolute say in deciding how the pagoda should be built.
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