Alright folks! This will be the last chapter for a while! 18 chapters translated since 04 June 2020. Phew, what a ride! With 40 more to go after this, I have to recognize that it’s a marathon and not a 100m dash…..so I’m going to be slowing down so I can catch up with real life for a while! Hope you’ve all enjoyed the translations so far. Fret not. I’ll still continue with the translations – they will probably just not be as fast as furious as they have been!
According to the Great Liang system, the eve of the Lunar New Year till the start of the 16th day of the first lunar month was a holiday, and everyone was excused from court*. This day was only the ninth day, and the lunar new year had not yet passed. For Cai Quan to request an audience on this day, it was definitely not for any ordinary matter, which was why even though the Liang Emperor was emotionally upset at that moment, he still summoned Cai Quan in.
*Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations still run for a full 15 days plus the eve, when families would gather for a reunion dinner
“Huang xiong is going to discuss court matters. This younger brother shall ask for leave.” Prince Ji said as he hurriedly got up.
“Sit down and stay with me a little longer.” The Liang Emperor raised his hand with a tired expression, “I would like to chat with you a little longer. Besides, since when should any matter of the court need to be hidden from you?”
“Yes.” Prince Ji dared not disobey and sat down again. The Minister of Justice, Cai Quan, was shown into the hall shortly. He was only about 30 years or so in age, and the youngest amongst the Ministers of the six core Ministries*, except for Shen Zhui. His face was beardless, his features neat, his every move comfortable and fluid, obviously displaying a sense of self-confidence. After performing his ceremonial greetings, he knelt in the centre of the hall, facing East.**
*the 6 ministries which formed the central govt (Personnel, Revenues, Rites, War, Justice and Works)
**for more on seating arrangements, follow this link
“Minister Cai, what do you have to report?”
“Your Majesty,” Cai Quan responded in a flat tone, “The Ministry of Justice had recently concluded a trial for a case. In the process, we discovered that it had some connections to the event surrounding the illegal fireworks factory, the one set up in secret by the Ministry of Revenue last year. Your servant felt that it was necessary to report this to Your Majesty in detail.”
“Illegal fireworks factory?” The Liang Emperor frowned, thinking very hard, “Is it that affair where Prince Xian colluded with the previous Minister of Revenue, Lou Zhijing to make a profit? Haven’t we already clarified that long ago? Don’t tell me there was a mistake with it?”
The Prince Xian mentioned by the Liang Emperor, of course, refers to the former Crown Prince who had been abolished less than a year ago. That year, he had instigated Lou Zhijing to secretly set up an illegal fireworks factory for the purposes of profiteering. After the affair was exposed, it had caused a big uproar and played a fundamental role in his downward slide from his position as Crown Prince.
“The case of the illegal fireworks factory was personally investigated by Minister Shen. The facts are clear and recorded in detail. The responsibilities borne by Prince Xian and Lou Zhijing were also accurately represented. Your servant is not saying a mistake was made,” Cai Quan paused for a moment here, then continued, “Your servant is referring to the explosion of the illegal fireworks factory……”
“Yes. 69 people killed, 157 injured, hundreds of families destroyed by the fire, a period of public discontent……”
“Hasn’t it already been dealt with? The people have been placated. Isn’t that enough?” The Liang Emperor was a little annoyed.
“That time, everyone believed it to be an accident due to the careless use of fire sparking the explosion in the illegal fireworks factory.” Cai Quan lifted his eyes, looking squarely at the Emperor on the throne, “But based on the evidence your servant discovered today, this wasn’t an accident.”
The Liang Emperor’s eyebrows raised inadvertently. Before he could speak, Prince Ji couldn’t help but interject in shock, “Not an accident? What kind of person would have intentionally set it off?”
“Your servant has testimonies. Please have a look Your Majesty.” Cai Quan did not reply Prince Ji directly but instead removed a roll of scrolls from within his sleeves and passed it to an eunuch who delivered it to the table on the throne.
The Liang Emperor slowly unrolled the scrolls. There was no reaction when he first began reading, but the more he read, the darker his expression. When he reached the third page, he shook in anger and hurled all the scrolls onto the floor.
Prince Ji, who was seated by the Liang Emperor’s side, quietly bent over to pick the scrolls up and looked at them. He hadn’t read even half of them before he turned deathly pale.
“Your Majesty, these five testimonies were collected separately, and all of them correspond with each other, without exception or fault. Your servant believes that they are credible.” Cai Quan remained calm as he continued, “From the beginning, in order to mitigate the perpetrators’ crimes, your servant investigated this layer by layer, and was increasingly shocked to discover the actual state of affairs. In fact, your servant knows that he is still far from getting to the root of the matter, but since officials of similar rank were involved, your servant could not proceed further. This is why your servant has entered the palace today, to request for Your Majesty’s decree to send someone from the office of the Minister of Justice* to supervise the matter. Your servant hopes to be able to bring the high official Zhu Yue of the Imperial Court of Justice to trial as soon as possible.”
*referring to his own department, highest level in the Ministry of Justice
“Although Zhu Yue was ultimately identified,” Prince Ji asked in a daze, “But…..but why would Zhu Yue instruct people to ignite the illegal fireworks factory?”
The Liang Emperor pressed his lips tight. Cai Quan also did not respond.
Why? Only Prince Ji, this passionate lover of music and wine, could ask such a naive question, but it didn’t take him long after asking this question to come to his own realization.
Who was behind Zhu Yue? It didn’t need a lot of thought to know this. To expose the secret of the illegal fireworks factory in such a terrible way, thus inciting great public grievance against the former Crown Prince. Obviously this would only bring great benefits to that other person.
The Liang Emperor began to feel dizzy, his four limbs cold with anger, and he was unable to speak.
The illegal fireworks factory, Zhu Yue, the Imperial Court of Justice, Xuanjing Bureau, Xia Jiang, Wei Zheng…….these names tumbled chaotically in his mind, giving him a splitting headache, and in the midst of this confusion, the only thing that was clear was that he had been deceived all along.
After successfully toppling the Crown Prince, the target had shifted to Prince Jing. Even if one considered the possibility that Prince Yu had merely caught the former Crown Prince at his own wrongdoings, this time he was clearly framing Prince Jing.
However, what was most shocking to him was that Prince Yu didn’t use just any method. He had unexpectedly allied himself with Xia Jiang to use Xuanjing Bureau, once loyal to the Emperor, to lay an ambush using a convict, with the ultimate aim of pinning the crime of rebellion on Prince Jing.
For the Liang Emperor, Xuanjing Bureau’s betrayal and deception was the last straw.
“Summon Prince Yu.” The Liang Emperor forced these three words out through gritted teeth, although his low voice was enough to send shivers through anyone. Seeing Cai Quan sitting upright, Prince Ji had some foreboding that a great storm was brewing. In truth, he really didn’t desire to stay on to witness this “crow covered scene”*, but unfortunately he didn’t have the courage to stand up and beg leave to withdraw at this moment, and was forced to remain seated where he was.
*literal translation that to me is reminiscent of crows picking at a dead man
Before receiving the imperial decree to enter the palace, Prince Yu had already received news of the Imperial Guards sealing Xuanjing Bureau, but no matter how much he enquired, he could not find out why. And while he fluttered around in confusion like a headless fly, the Liang Emperor’s summons arrived.
His being summoned this time was definitely not due to the Emperor’s desire to see a son who was dearly missed. Thinking about Mei Changsu and his ability to secretly “produce clouds with one hand and rain with the other”*, Prince Yu suddenly shivered in trepidation. All the way to the palace, though he wrung his brains dry and he was breaking out in cold sweat, he still couldn’t come up with an excuse.
*idiom for “being tricky and inconstant”
“This son greets Father Emperor. What instructions does Father Emperor have?” Entering the Warm Pavillion, Prince Yu didn’t have time to see who else was around, but hurried hastily to pay his respects.
A roll of scrolls were hurled at him in response, hitting him sharply on the face like a chill wind.
“See for yourself!”
Prince Yu shuddered briefly at this rebuke, but soon recovered himself, quickly picked the scrolls from the ground, rose up and spread them out to read. As he read, his face paled. Dripping with perspiration, he kowtowed and called out in a shrill voice, “Father Emperor, this is a false accusation……”
“Zhu Yue has been identified. What false accusation are you crying about?” The Liang Emperor berated him.
“Er……” Prince Yu still had his wits about him. He was only momentarily speechless, and soon replied, “Zhu Yue is this son’s brother-in-law. This testimony clearly identifies Zhu Yue, but this son has been summoned. With Father Emperor’s great wisdom, I should have known…..”
“You were very quick to label this a false accusation,” The Liang Emperor sneered, “Do you intend to vouch for Zhu Yue?”
Prince Yu did not dare to respond carelessly. After giving it some thought, he said, “These have been testified by wicked people. How could Father Emperor believe them? Zhu Yue has never been one for evil deeds. These accusations…..it’s a great wrong done to him.”
“Your Majesty,” Cai Quan bowed and continued, “Your servant had also considered the possibility of unjust accusations, but the person who identified Zhu Yue was his personal attendant, not an outsider with malicious intentions. If it was still ambiguous at this point, it would be difficult for it to clear the law. Therefore, your servant earnestly requests Your Majesty’s gracious permission, once court reopens, to immediately summon officials from the three ministries involved in the illegal fireworks factory to conduct a joint hearing in court. This case must be properly clarified in order to prove Official Zhu’s innocence.”
“Conduct a joint hearing?” The Liang Emperor looked at Prince Yu with a grim expression. “Jinghuan, what do you think?”
Prince Yu gritted his teeth, the inside of his brain buzzing. Whether Zhu Yue had actually suffered injustice, he was clear. Whether or not Zhu Yue would stand unyielding against the pressure of a public trial, he was even clearer. He believed that his wife’s younger brother would remain loyal and do his best to help him, but he couldn’t be sure that when faced with such a well-known criminal expert like Cai Quan, if Zhu Yue would have the ability to resist him to the last and not give him away……
The results of such a joint court hearing had to be proclaimed publicly. Once the joint court hearing was agreed upon, one had to be prepared to bear the consequences that followed. Once the verdict was reached, there would be no room to beg the Emperor for his favour and keep this matter concealed. How could Prince Yu dare to force himself to agree to this?
Xiao Jingyan’s hesitation for fear of being found out was being observed by everyone present. Although the Liang Emperor knew fully well what was going on, he was still filled with rage when looking at him. His left hand tightened around the fine porcelain teacup he was holding, almost shattering it. Prince Ji, who was seated by his side, felt great trepidation upon seeing this.
“Your Majesty, whether Prince Yu desires to sit in on the hearing or not, it doesn’t matter.” Amongst all the people, Cai Quan was the only one whose expression continued to remain unchanged, businesslike in appearance. “Your servant will definitely do his best to enforce the law impartially. Your Majesty, please issue an imperial edict to call for a joint hearing with the three ministries.”
“Father Emperor…..” Prince Yu’s voice trembled, his facial expression increasingly difficult to behold. As Cai Quan’s expression became more indifferent, the more flustered he became. He wasn’t sure if this Minister of Justice had any other reliable evidence beyond these five written testimonies, but Cai Quan was a cold-hearted leader who did not differentiate people. If he truly had conclusive proof, what good did it do to object to the hearing?
The Liang Emperor finally threw the teacup he had been holding at Prince Yu. Although it didn’t hit him, it expressed his wrath at that moment. Prince Ji hastily walked over, and holding on to his arm, urged him in a low tone, “Huang xiong, calm down…..calm down…..”
“This unfilial spawn! You won’t be satisfied until I die from anger! To think I’ve loved you so much all these years!” The Liang Emperor pointed at Prince Yu, cursing loudly, “All these underhanded deeds, one after the other, do you think I’m old and senile? You’ve even managed to get your hands on my Xuanjing Bureau. Xiao Jinghuan, I have underestimated you!”
Prince Yu was in shock. He kowtowed, banging his head on the floor, crying out, “If this is Father Emperor’s view, this son dare not argue, but Xuanjing Bureau……this son did not……”
“Silence! Xia Dong has already confessed to framing Prince Jing and you’re still disputing this!”
In truth, even though they were allies, Prince Yu never clearly understood how Xia Jiang intended to make use of Wei Zheng to trap Prince Jing. He was even more unclear about what Xia Dong did during this time and what her role was. But he knew that Xia Dong was Xia Jiang’s cherished disciple, and that she had always been obedient to Xia Jiang’s orders. Which is why once he heard the Liang Emperor say that Xia Dong had confessed, Prince Yu was even more unsure to what degree matters had deteriorated, and was immediately thrown into utter confusion.
“I’ve always turned a blind eye to the games you’ve been playing, letting them pass. Who would have thought that you would go so far. If you dare to deceive me today, in time, who else do you have in mind?” The more the Liang Emperor scolded, the angrier he got, fire practically bursting forth from his eyes. “Speak! Are Zhu Yue’s actions related to you? If you speak any more empty words, I will not let you off lightly!”
Prince Yu crawled forward two steps, crying loudly, “This son has never forgotten Father Emperor’s favour, but also because of Father Emperor’s favour, it caused the former Crown Prince to be intolerant of this son. That time, the former Crown Prince did everything he could to suppress this son. This son was unwilling to make Father Emperor worry, and in order to protect himself, had no choice but to come up with this bad plan…..Father Emperor…..this son had no intention of showing any disrespect. It was just a mistake made in a moment of confusion……”
“Then what about this time? Was it Prince Jing who suppressed you?”
“This time, this son really does not know anything about this matter. Xia Jiang acted alone. This son merely…..did not try to dissuade him…..”
The Liang Emperor sneered, “Fine! You’ve completely pushed away any responsibility! Poor Xia Jiang. He thought helping you was demonstrating loyalty to the new Emperor in advance. Who would have thought that things would end like this! Dare to do but dare not accept the consequences. How are you anything like me?”
Prince Yu dared not respond, merely cried mournfully while glancing at Prince Ji from time to time. Looking at him, Prince Ji’s heart softened, and he couldn’t help but step in to try to persuade his brother. “Huang xiong, Jinghuan has already acknowledged his mistake. He can’t endure anymore scolding…..it’s just that with regards to this matter, how best to deal with it?”
At this moment, Cai Quan stood up solemnly and said in a crystal clear voice, “Your servant would like to earnestly request again for Your Majesty’s grace to allow a joint hearing with the three Ministries.”
I’m amused by how many people the Emperor had been summoning to court in succession. Prince Jing, Xia Dong and now Prince Yu. Everyone he felt he trusted, one by one. Must have been quite crushing for him! His world slowly being turned upside down….karma indeed. Though I’m rather glad that Prince Yu was getting his just desserts. His conniving and simpering was getting rather annoying.
I love Cai Quan though. He is so completely undeterred, and kept bringing everyone back to “give me my joint hearing!”!
Overall, I must say that this chapter was most difficult to translate. Too many long sentences and unfamiliar terms make not a straightforward translation! Or maybe it’s just my sluggish brain! In any case, I’ve tried the best I could, and I hope it makes sense to you for the most part!