Editor: Areth Kyntaul
To Kill and to Not Kill (Part 1)
Eunuch Wang Tushui stood in Jin Luan Hall and in his clear voice, loudly declared, “Tie Hanyi from His Majesty’s Entourage was faithful to his duty and came to His Majesty’s rescue at the Imperial Study, and is hereby promoted two ranks, awarded fifty gold ingots, plus two hundred silver ingots.”
“Thank you for your grace, Your Majesty!” Tie Hanyi showed his joy on his face as he took the large red packet handed to him by a eunuch. He knew his reward was inside, so he bowed to give his gratitude.
The formalities required during this dynasty’s reign are fairly loose.
The vassals didn’t have to kneel down when they saw the emperor, unless it was for something very important. To give their thanks, they just needed to bow, instead of having to kowtow as well, hence why it was all right for Tie Hanyi to just bow and verbally give his thanks.
The emperor narrowed his eyes that were obviously tired. He revealed a slight smile, “Guard Tie is very loyal and a role model for others. He came to my rescue as soon as he dealt with the poison. I shall remember the loyalty you showed.”
Tie Hanyi is an honest man. In reality, he just followed the crowd and ran around randomly. He found the emperor by coincidence, so he just bowed like a yes-man to thank the emperor without saying anything else.
Tie Hanyi was standing at the centre because he stepped out of the line alone to give his thanks. His original position in the hall was located roughly toward the rear of the middle of the military vassals.
There was somebody standing at in the last line of the military vassals with jealousy in his eyes.
Said person was Long Zaitian, who hated Tie Hanyi when he saw him go to receive his reward.
‘I performed magnificently during the “Emperor Chengkong Incident.” I played an undercover agent for two sides and never let any information slip. I countered the Thorn Tears Poison, fought against the Black Winds Thirteen Wings at the Flying Fish Pavilion and even saved Vice-captain Shen. I even led a team to rescue the emperor at the end. I didn’t get a single reward, despite all those major contributions.
Who the fuck is Tie Hanyi? He got his ass whooped by Tang Ye and then went fishing in barren waters for ages. He only contributed right at the end. He was just a prop in the last battle, and he got promoted?!’
The emperor failed to get what he was after despite his sacrifice in Long Zaitian’s… “Drowning the Seven Armies,” so he was furious and almost had him beheaded. He was saved by his big contributions and loyalty.
His choice to remain loyal despite the Orange Prince’s threats and offers was a rare attribute. The emperor was on the brink of coming up with a random excuse to have him skinned, or if not, sent to the castration room, so that the now Eunuch Zhong Ning could enlighten him.
Long Zaitian was aware that the emperor was very generous to not have beheaded him, for if it was another emperor, they’d have him beheaded for pissing on them. But he was annoyed, nonetheless, as he was a Vice-captain of the Qilin Guards and yet now he’s a Baihu after being demoted, which is the same rank as Su Xiao.
According to the regulations, he shouldn’t even be allowed to stand where he was now standing in the hall. However, he was the leader of the Qilin Guards in the capital, which was unrelated to his rank in the Imperial Court, as it’s a rank appointed by the Grand Commander of the Qilin Guards, so he was still allowed to stand there.
Tears welled up in Long Zaitian’s eyes. Though he was standing in the last row, he would still poke his body out every now and then to flash a “poor me” gaze to the emperor.
‘Your Majesty! This is unfair to me!!’
The emperor looked at his vassals and Long Zaitian. They all wore grim expressions, so he knew it was time, and hence exchanged eye contact with the empress who was sitting next to him.
“Why did Guard Tie receive a reward? He accomplished nothing in comparison to many others here. However, he arrived to help me when I was in a pinch, and thus managed to get himself a contribution merit. Many of you may not understand the logic I followed, but what I rewarded were the two words ‘just right.’ There are times when we cannot control our hearts. Once we are shaken, we become strange. As important vassals of the Imperial Court, you all need to have better self-control.”
It looked as though the emperor glanced at Long Zaitian, but at the same time not. He then added, “Of course, that applies to other posts too. If you cannot manage yourself well, you cannot manage others.”
His gaze shifted to the Baihu Long in the rear.
Long Zaitian, who couldn’t control his bladder, stood back in line immediately.
The emperor then wore on a lonely expression, causing the many people who saw it to feel afraid, “You must know when to advance and when to retreat, both as an emperor and a vassal. I have been crowned for over three decades now and you have assisted me in managing the lands. I was just a young man back then, and you are no longer the same age, either.”
“Some of you were young men with black hair, but now have a head of white hair. Many talents have come and left. I have sat here for over three decades as well. I’m old now and so are you.”
“I don’t dare to claim that I did everything well these last thirty years, but I at least can honestly say that I have a clear conscience. You have had me as your ruler, and I have not let you down. We have weathered everything together these three decades. I have treated you generously, so you cannot treat me poorly. Now you are all asking me to behead my own son? How could I possibly bring myself to give the order?”
The vassals of the Imperial Court have been aggressive, recently, regarding the Orange Prince’s punishment. They said that there is no father that kills his son, but there shouldn’t be a son who kills his father, either. The Orange Prince plotted to kill his father and revolt. Whether you consider him a son or a vassal, he is a traitor. His crime is, therefore, unforgivable and he should be killed as deterrence.
The three elders of the Ministry of Personnel, the Ministry of Rights and the Military have pressed for his execution. They couldn’t ask for anything more than to skin the Orange Prince as a tribute to their loyal fallen vassals.
The empress was shocked as she heard that they wanted to have the Orange Prince beheaded.
The empress was stuck in the harem the entire time when the revolt unfolded, so she didn’t know what happened in the Forbidden City. After she heard that her son had revolted, she immediately went to see the emperor to kowtow and ask for forgiveness.
The emperor and empress cared for each other deeply. The emperor didn’t reprimand her at all for the revolt, because he knew that it had nothing to do with her.
However, the empress could detect the coldness in his words and mannerisms.
But regardless of how wrong her son may have been, the empress couldn’t let the emperor behead him. Consequently, she knelt outside the Imperial Study, refusing to eat, drink, or get up no matter what the emperor said.
The emperor also asked himself many times if he should kill the Orange Prince or not.
If it was somebody else who had revolted, he would have had their entire family beheaded without batting an eye.
Revolting is a major crime. As matter of fact, it could poison the vassals of the Imperial Court, leading to absolute chaos.
The emperor had never been so cornered alone before. He was subdued by assassins outside of the Imperial Study. Not only was that an unforgivable crime, but also a massive insult to the royal family!
If the Empress Dowager were here, she would have the Orange Prince beheaded with her vicious personality.
However, the one who erred was his son.
The emperor still remembered when the Orange Prince was born. He was small and soft like a big ball of flour. His fingers were small and slender. His hands were plump. The emperor still remembered how he was as an infant after twenty five years had passed.
However, the emperor was clueless about other things, such as what he liked to eat, what he liked, his interests, if he had a girl he liked or not and so forth.
The Orange Prince was without a doubt unfilial, but wasn’t he partly to blame?
The emperor had busied himself all these years working for the nation and had also kept his distance from his children due to the Six Dragons Shall Seal the Nation prophecy. He had only found out about this love for war stratagems once they finally clashed in a revolt.
The Orange Prince resided close to him, but the emperor almost never went to see him. He only called him into the palace on annual festivals, and even then he only saw him once or twice a month.
The Orange Prince had come into the palace daily to see him after he had moved into the Orange Prince’s Residence, but the emperor didn’t see him, due to his work. After a long time passed, the Orange Prince continued to come into the palace daily, but only to see his mother and never to see his father again.
The emperor asked himself if he was not partially to blame for how the Orange Prince turned out.
In the end, the emperor said to the eEmpress, who was kneeling, “We must take responsibility for our child’s wrongs. Empress, let us help Cheng’er take the blame for this.”
The empress passed out after that, for she hadn’t eaten or drank anything in three days.
More than half of the officials at the conference wanted the Orange Prince killed to appease the people, so it wasn’t easy for even the emperor to shield him.
The emperor had to resort to pulling some strings to save the Orange Prince. While today’s conference was about bestowing rewards, the emperor looked for an opportunity and made a mention.
Tie Hanyi was still standing in the centre of everybody after getting his reward because he couldn’t step back yet. His dilemma was indescribable.
The Emperor pointed to an official and said, “Assistant Minister Wei, I remember that you were a Principle Graduate in the tenth year of my rule and entered employment at the Imperial Court the same year. You were still a young man back then. Now you have a son and daughter. You’ve got grandchildren, too, don’t you? If I told you to kill your son and daughter, what would you do?”
Assistant Minister Wei played yes-man. He didn’t dare to answer.
“Assistant Minister Jin. You’ve just been conferred a rank. Maybe you haven’t heard of these things I mentioned, but you know that there are no parents who could bear to kill their children, right? Have you met one who could?”
Assistant Minister Jin has no standing in the court, so naturally, he didn’t dare to speak.
The emperor then wore a stern expression and finally looked toward the elders standing in the front row.
“Minister Zhang, you want me to kill the Orange Prince. You carry it out.” The emperor nodded as he spoke. Intolerance flashed in his eyes, “Minister Zhang, Teacher Zhang, you have served me my entire life. You were my teacher when I was young as well. You taught me to read, sentence by sentence. I remember everything you said to me. I still rely on you heavily even now, but you are now asking me to kill my son. Do you not think you have gone overboard?”
“Your Majesty, what you said is incorrect.”
Minister Zhang is from the Ministry of Personnel. He was the one that led the petition to have the Orange Prince executed. He wasn’t flustered and responded calmly, “You need not kill the criminal, Your Majesty. You just need to give the command. A written decree is all you need to hand to the Ministry of Justice. They will handle the rest.”
“Is there any difference between giving the order and me personally executing him?”
Minister Zhang remained calm. He met with the emperor’s eyes and with a smile replied, “Your Majesty, the crime committed cannot be pardoned.”
“But not even a vicious tiger would not eat its child. If beasts understand that family is important, then, how could a human do something not even beasts do?”
Minister Zhang remained composed, “Your Majesty, that analogy does not work. It would indeed be cruel for a tiger to eat its son if it was hungry. However, if the tiger were to eat it for its own sake as well as the betterment of its people, due to its son committing evil, then that would be a benevolent virtue.”
Minister Zhang then paused. He glanced at the emperor again and with a warm smile elaborated, “You cannot apply a tiger’s character to a human, as they are not humans. Thus, they would not kill their child for their people. This is about different levels of relationships. You are the ruler of a nation. Everything is related to you and similarly, your own affairs are related to the nation. Killing your traitorous son for the sake of the people falls under the same logic. Which holds more weight, a traitorous son or a stable nation?”
“Furthermore, I am not saying frightening things just to raise an alarm.”
“The criminal Ling Chengzhi did not set an example as a prince. He bullies others and thinks little of the people. Additionally, he accepted many bribes and encouraged it in the Imperial Court. He then bribed officials of the Imperial Court, used force or bribes and he caused those who showed any opposition to be stripped of their ranks. One month ago, he lied and offended the ruler, was insolent to his father, poisoned vassals of the Imperial Court and violated countless rules and taboos in the Palace.”
“Let us put everything aside and talk about just the Imperial Study. Li Chengzhi insolently brought assassins into such a strictly guarded place and even put your life at risk. No such atrocities have been committed since the time Founding Emperor of this dynasty’s rule, not to mention that he is a member of the royal family and your son, no less! How will you appease the people after he committed such heinous crimes if you do not execute him? Your Majesty…”
Every time Minister Zhang spoke, the emperor pulled back a little. The teacher and student duo have always debated things like this. Minister Zhang was clever with words.
The emperor could not contest his main points and finally would finally be defeated.
Minister Zhang rode the wave of momentum and went on. The emperor listened with his head down, which was an exact repeat of how things went back then.
Suddenly, noisy rambling outside caught the emperor’s attention.
“Stop! We’re going to be late! It’s all because of the bully, destroying my sabre, causing me to go back and grab it. Su Han, stop leaning on me. Walk on your own legs.”
“Jeez, Your Highness, I cannot run anymore. Slow down.”
“And you call yourself a man? Hurry up!”
Everybody heard the voices of two girls in the short three-sentence conversation, but they couldn’t tell who the ‘man’ the sentence ‘And you call yourself a man?’ was directed at.
The sound of their footsteps came closer. The guards at the door didn’t stop them, even when they got to the door.
A gust of wind blew and two beautiful and lively individuals stepped into the hall.
The two girls were walking so quickly it was as though they had a wind blowing under their feet, as they passed by many vassals and headed to the centre of the hall.
The girl with a pair of long slender legs that loved to dress in red, and had six plum flower petals on her white forehead, was the emperor’s second daughter, Princess Hongzhuang, Li Hongzhuang.
The other who wore a blue military uniform with a cute face who came in together with her was naturally, Su Xiao.
The princess, being skilled at Qinggong was able to stop as soon as she wanted to. The hasty energy she had when she came in vanished as though she shook it off. She then immediately saluted the emperor and empress, “Li Hongzhuang humbly greets you, father, Your Majesty.”
The empress wasn’t Princess Hongzhuang’s biological mother, hence she had deliberately addressed her as ‘Your Majesty’ as opposed to ‘mother’.
However, her greeting was, by all means, polite and acceptable. She maintained her mannerisms perfectly, but she couldn’t do much about Su Xiao who came with her.
Su Xiao’s martial arts skills are far inferior to Princess Hongzhuang. Princess Hongzhuang used Qinggong to travel here, while Su Xiao just hugged her around her waist to come along for the ride. As such, when the princess suddenly stopped, Su Xiao continued flying forward as per the rule of inertia.
As a result, he flew straight at Minister Zhang who was standing on the cliff of death as is.
“Therefore, Your Majesty, if you deal with his crimes un-… OW!”
Su Xiao crashed into Minister Zhang’s lower back right on the bull’s eye. After Minister Zhang cried out, the two of them began to roll on the ground like candied haw, as a result of the crash.
After rolling around several rounds, Su Xiao finally stopped and found himself on a soft surface. He cheerfully exclaimed, “Eh? I’m okay!”
“I, I am not okay…”
“Mister, who are you?”
Minister Zhang refused to look bad in front of his junior. With his face completely red, he announced, “I am Zhang… Chun…”
Su Xiao titled his head, “Your name is Chun? That does not sound too good, does it?”
“Who’s name is Chun!? I am Zhang Chunfeng. I am…”
Su Xiao cut him off, “But, gramps, you are so old already, so what are you standing here in the hall for?”
“Because I am the Ministry of Personnel’s… Ministry of Personnel’s … Head! Get off, I am about to blow my back out!!”
*Minister Zhang and Su Xiao are speaking of the two “chun” among many others, specifically 春 versus 淳. The first one can have a feminine connotation. As an example, Zhang Chunhua, Sima Yi’s wife, has the character 春. It can also have a sexual connotation.