“This son understands.” The Second Prince suddenly paused and looked hesitant, “Mother, to tell you the truth, Taoist Chongxu has secretly approached this son in the past few days, revealing his intention to support us. This son is not sure whether to accept his offer or not. This son doesn’t dare to get too close to those Taoist priests, lest Father Emperor become suspicious, and thus hasn’t given my reply. Taoist Chongxu promised that if we agreed with his proposal, he would spare no effort to put good words in front of Father Emperor, and he also would give me part of the credit for the creation of the immortality pill. In exchange, once I get that position, he wants me to appoint him as the State Preceptor.”
Empress Yang didn’t know what to say. In fact, she was not good at dealing with this kind of thing, especially when it involved politics, which she did not have the slightest understanding of. Once, she always left all the decision-making to her aunt and father, and never had to worry about anything.
Empress Dowager Yang and Yang Fucheng came to their position from the bottom. They had been dealing with the up and downs in the court for many years and possessed a keen political instinct. In contrast, Empress Yang had always been well-protected by her family and never had to depend on herself for anything. After entering the palace, she lived comfortably under the shade of her powerful aunt and never bothered herself with the affairs of the court. In her opinion, those matters had nothing to do with her, because there were still her aunt and father. But now, having lost the huge tree that always protected her throughout her life, Empress Yang was suddenly pushed to the front and had to make decisions herself.
She couldn’t even distinguish the names and posts of many officials; how could she understand the web of interests lying among members of various factions? And although Li Chengjun was more knowledgeable, he was not that much better than his mother.
Throughout his life, he was regarded as the hope of the Yang family by Empress Dowager Yang and Yang Fucheng, and grew up under their careful protection. For the past seventeen years, he only devoted himself to his study and filial piety to his elders. He grew up with the best of everything and always had a smooth path in life, but in fact, all his achievement was nothing more than a made-up shell.
Everything Li Chengjun had, he did not obtain himself. Without Yang Fucheng to guide him in front, his naivety and shortcomings became apparent once he faced the old foxes in the officialdom.
Just like now — Taoist Chongxu expressed his favor, but Li Chengjun didn’t know whether to accept or reject him. If Empress Dowager Yang and Yang Fucheng were still here, they would be able to see Taoist Chongxu’s plan at a glance. Unfortunately, there was no such ‘if.’ Li Chengjun was unable to make up his own mind, so he came to his mother seeking advice.
But Empress Yang was not by any means assertive. Still, she tried her best and began to consider the proposal seriously. In her view, since the Emperor put so much trust in this Taoist Chongxu, there must be no harm in accepting his support. In any case, it was always a good thing to have one more person to put good words for her son in front of the Emperor. After a while, Empress Yang raised her head and said to her son, “Since he has this intention, it’s okay for you to accept his support for the time being. As for the reward… after you sit in that position, it’s all up to you whether to appoint a State Preceptor or not. His Majesty is deeply troubled by his headache and can’t wait for the immortality pill. If you came forward and presented the pill at the time, the credit would fall on you. This can also serve as a reminder for him — the eldest son he put so much hope on is actually harboring an unwarranted ambition while you, the second son he has always neglected and forgotten, are the only filial one.”
Listening to his mother’s plan, the Second Prince stood up and cupped his hands, “Mother, this son understands. I will retire now. Mother, please take good care of your health. Our time will definitely come.”
Empress Yang’s eyes reddened. She wiped her eyes with a handkerchief and said emotionally, “You must be very careful. Moreover, although Xiyin had done something wrong, she is very sincere toward you. Now that she has been deprived of the Wangfei title, she can only live in your Shou Wang Manor without any title or position and is probably suffering a lot of grievances. She is your cousin after all, so please take good care of her.”
“Mother, this son understands. It’s getting late, and the palace gate is almost closing. This son retires.”
The capital city was not peaceful recently. At this moment, a group of officials from the Crown Prince’s faction was arguing fiercely in the front hall of Ciqing Palace.
One of them said, “His Majesty is now closely associated himself with those fake priests, promoting superstition and alchemy, and even listening to their treacherous words against His Highness. This is a great disaster for our country. After His Majesty handed over your power to Shou Wang, he has been visiting the Yinghua Palace all day long, keeping close contact with Chongxu and his men. Your Highness, we should take precautions early.”
This sentiment was undoubtedly representing the heart of everyone present. In no time, many people began to raise their opinions. One of them stood up and bowed to Li Chengjing, “Your Highness, this humble one has a plan. May I ask for permission to speak?”
Li Chengjing nodded slightly: “Granted.”
“This humble one believes that everything is foreshadowed, and one’s lack of insight will lead to disaster. Although His Majesty has always been wise and benevolent, he is currently being blinded by treacherous people, and we cannot tell whether his suspicion will continue to deepen or not. Your Highness, I suggest that you make plans in advance to prepare for the unexpected.”
“What’s your opinion?”
“Your Highness’ inner palace is currently empty, so you might as well welcome a side consort to consolidate the Eastern Palace’s power. It just so happens that General Dong, the Left Commander of the Fifth Battalion, has an only daughter whom he treats as an apple in his eye. This humble one heard that Miss Dong harbored a deep admiration towards Your Highness and is willing to lower herself to be a concubine to serve you. Your Highness, you may as well receive Miss Dong as your side consort and obtain the power of the Fifth Battalion’s left troops through her. Moreover, Miss Dong does not ask for status. She admires Your Highness and Crown Princess’s unyielding love and voluntarily wants to serve you both as a concubine. For this reason, she surely won’t make the situation difficult for the Crown Princess. Her Highness is wise and deep in wisdom, and she surely will understand the importance of this matter. Your Highness, you may wish to think about it.”
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