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.
The court officials were already dissatisfied with such a big project, and they now also had to deal with a group of Taoist priests who pointed fingers at the most trivial things. These priests were very arrogant. They would claim that something was not right today and then return tomorrow to accuse someone of deliberately sabotaging the project. The officials in charge naturally couldn’t stand it. Anyone who managed to enter the six ministries was a scholar who passed the grueling imperial examination as exalted Jinshi; they were the elites of the elites. In contrast, the people under Taoist Chongxu were not even orthodox priests of a major temple and — to put it frankly — were just a bunch of vagabonds who in the past would not even have the qualification to see these officials in person. Now, these vagabonds were stepping on their heads, pointing fingers and criticizing haughtily. How could they bear it?
As a result, a flood of complaints went to Li Chengjing. Li Chengjing endured it at first, but when he learned that the Emperor was going to divert the national budget to build the pagoda, he finally couldn’t stay silent anymore and went to persuade the Emperor regarding the absurdity of the matter.
With all the floods and plagues, last year was not a good one for the country, and it was now time to give the people some relief via tax reduction. As a result, the Emperor was planning a grand construction at this moment, and a totally useless pagoda on top of that. It was a totally absurd move. However, the Emperor was totally fascinated by the promise of immortality and refused to listen to any objection. Especially because Taoist Chongxu had deliberately spoken in his ears this day, subtly advising that the Crown Prince was blocking the construction of the White Deer Pagoda simply because he did not want the Emperor to achieve immortality.
It was clear why the Crown Prince had such an intention, no?
The Emperor was already suspicious from begin with, and this suspicion turned into a full-blown rage when Li Chengjing came to him with admonition. He angrily rebuked Li Chengjing, banned him from leaving the Eastern Palace, and stripped him from the power of overseeing the country, handing it over to the Second Prince instead. Needless to say, the Second Prince was filial and loyal, and the first thing he did after gaining power was to devote himself to the construction of the White Deer Pagoda.
When the palace maid announced the arrival of the Second Prince, Empress Yang hurriedly came over to welcome her son, “Jun’er.”
“Mother.” The Second Prince stepped forward to salute Empress Yang but was quickly stopped, “Jun’er, come in.”
After Empress Yang pulled Li Chengjun into the Kunning Palace, she immediately dismissed all the servants, leaving only herself and her son, “Jun’er, how has His Majesty been these days?”
“Father Emperor took Taoist Chongxu’s medicinal pills and was overjoyed to find his body greatly improved. Taoist Chongxu promised to perform alchemy in ten days to concoct another batch of immortality pills for Father Emperor.”
“Immortality pill?” Empress Yang frowned, “Can it really make a mortal live forever?”
The Second Prince shook his head and said, “This son doesn’t know. But Father Emperor said that his headaches are no longer as frequent as before, so the pill must be useful.”
Empress Yang nodded, awed. It seemed that this person was indeed a real immortal. But the next moment, she seemed to be thinking about something and hurriedly whispered to her son, “Jun’er, this Taoist Chongxu must be a real deal. You must not offend him, but don’t get too close either, understand? If he wants to take you away to practice Taoism, you must never agree.”
These mystical experts usually had strange temperaments. Empress Yang was especially afraid that the Taoist would suddenly take fancy of her Jun’er and take him away to be a disciple, living in seclusion for decades, even hundreds of years. If her only son was truly taken away like that, she would have nowhere to cry.
“This son understands.” The Second Prince nodded assuringly, “Your son will never leave you alone, so please do not worry, Mother. Moreover, I have to abide solely by my duty and only do the errands Father Emperor entrusted me. If I get too close to the Taoist, I’m afraid Father Emperor will begin to be suspicious of me too.”
Hearing this, Empress Yang lowered her voice and asked, “What about the Crown Prince?”
The mother and son looked at each other and understood what the other meant. Speaking about suspicious, the person that the Emperor was wary about the most was undoubtedly the Crown Prince, Li Chengjing.
The Crown Prince was too capable. Over the years, his influence had grown rapidly, even starting to overshadow the Emperor. The seeds of suspicion had been buried for a long time, and it was completely detonated due to the recent matter with the pagoda construction.
But it was to be expected. A strong sword was naturally preferred, but when it became too sharp that it could even cut its master’s hand, even the most useful sword would have to be destroyed.
If Li Chengjing wanted to blame, he should blame himself for being too sharp. After all, he was only the crown prince, not yet an emperor. How could he overshadow the true master of the country?
The Second Prince replied in a low voice, “The Crown Prince has thoroughly annoyed Father Emperor with his constant protest and was banned from leaving the Eastern Palace a few days ago. His right to participate in governmental affairs has also been revoked, and the power has now been handed over to this son.”
Hearing this, Empress Yang let out a long sigh of relief. The goal that the Yang family worked hard for but failed to obtain was actually achieved in this way. Empress Yang also couldn’t help feeling nervous, as she realized that success and danger were always going side by side. She and her son must be cautious; they must never be a mantis preying on a cicada, unaware of the oriole watching behind their backs.
Empress Yang hurriedly instructed her son, “It’s not easy for you to finally win this power, so make sure you guard it well. Although His Majesty seems angry now, the Crown Prince is still the heir he has cultivated for many years. Your Father Emperor can give the power to you now and can also take it back at any time, especially once his anger subsided. You must take advantage of this chance to perform well and show him your ability.”
“This son understands.” The Second Prince suddenly paused and looked hesitant.
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