CHAPTER 15: CONCLUSION

VII

On the 24th day of January, Li Feng was awakened by the urgent battle report in the middle of the night before the Foreign Affairs Mission could arrive at the front line.


Signed with the Black Tiger emblem — the frontline achieved great victory!


Gu Yun's arrangements in the past half-year had begun to take shape. No one knew when he had sent his men to the south, secretly instigated a group of islands in Nanyang occupied by the Westerner troops and ambushed a large part of troops in the southwest border.


On the night of January 21st, a part of the main forces of Great Liang’s navy raided the enemy directly on the battlefield, using the cautious nature of the enemy's general to contain the enemy's forces. At the same time, the warship group which was lying in ambush on the southwest border, both sides in and out cooperated and swept over the islands at Nanyang, annihilated the forces of the foreigners occupied here, then immediately sent troops to intercept the supply line of the enemy, choking the enemy's neck!


Who said that Great Liang's navy could not fight on the open sea?


The war report was very concise, stating only the results, not much for the details and casualties.


After this battle, the Western troops retreated to the sea area of Dongying in a panic. The local militia took the opportunity to attack the enemy on the ground. The southern half of the country exploded in all directions; it was the first dawn on the frontline after a long gloomy period.


Li Feng almost jumped up, getting dressed in the middle of the night, wanting to summon a grand court meeting.


Foreign Affairs Mission bullshit, if they could beat the foreigners back to their home, they would not allow them to take even a grain of sand.


The servants were running in circles around him. After Zhu Little Feet's death, the position of serving beside Li Feng had changed several people, but none were to his liking. At this time, it was also an old man who was serving him. He was not talkative and could be seen as smart: "Congratulations, Your Majesty, with Marshal Gu, the day we recover Jiangnan is upon us!"


Li Feng laughed aloud, his speech was almost incoherent, "I no longer have to worry about explaining it to my ancestors in the afterlife, truly."


Li Feng, who had been limping for a long time, almost ran out as if there was wind at his feet. Walking halfway, being blown by the night wind, Emperor Long An's feverish brain finally cooled down, and the happy look on his face dimmed.


Yes, this battle has been won. Then what's next?


Many of the decrees carried out by the Grand Council were under the banner of ‘prioritize the war’. In addition to bringing out their Red Imperial Edict and Iron Plaque and their old age to lecture him, every noble family only wanted to stop the war.


If Li Feng was hesitant about war and peace before, then Gu Yun's victory had added a lot of chips to one side of the scale, making the balance in his heart turn to one side.


The guts of these aristocratic families are getting bigger and bigger, even wanting to intervene in such a big war, the Emperor thought quietly, What are they scheming?


Li Feng's steps were halted, and he said to the servant absent-mindedly: "My nanny Zhao has not been in the palace for several years, do you remember her?"


The servant did not know much, so he bowed his head and answered: "I heard that Madame Zhao now has only one daughter, who is still on duty in the palace. She has accepted Third Master Fang as her adopted son. A few days ago, she frequently presented her plaque, she must have come to beg for help."


Li Feng said "Oh" and half-lowered his eyes: "Nobles who broke the law and committed crime are the same as the common people. In those days, Wei Wang was still imprisoned like anyone else, no one had come out to demand his justice. On the other hand, how come the sons of these families are all so precious?"


The servant heard the light killing intent in it. He looked at Li Feng carefully and didn't dare to speak for a moment.


Li Feng's hot sweat on his forehead was blown down by the cold wind. He covered his chest and coughed a few times. The servant quickly draped a fur coat on him.


When he was at the age of seven, the Crown Prince was fairly smart, but he was too meek and weak, not quite resembling himself. Instead, he was more like the Former Emperor Yuan He. And what were the circumstances of Yuan He’s ruling?


Li Feng could still remember —— the former emperor always felt that his position was unjust, having to rely on this and that, not having even military authority in his hands. Even though the Gu family had only one young child, he still allowed the deadly Black Iron Tiger Emblem to be passed down. Always asking others for opinions even for the most insignificant matters, always bringing up affection to coerce, raising a bunch of national vermin, almost ruining the rich possessions left by Emperor Wu.


It took Li Feng ten years, yet he had still not finished cleaning up the mess left by the former emperor.


Li Feng felt more and more helpless in the past two years. He did not want his son to fall into the same predicament as his father.


But in this situation, who should he believe?


Yan Wang?


Yan Wang's ‘will not marry’, ‘will not have children’ and ‘willing to die for the country’ were all his own words. There were plenty of easy to hear, beautiful words in the world. When the evidence of those disorderly subjects and traitors were indisputable, they were still crying and saying that they were all struggling for the country and the people. Although Li Feng could be moved by him for a while, after a long time, he would sober up.


Li Feng was protecting Chang Geng at present because he also saw the value of this reform. Yan Wang was right in saying that the system and rules were the most important. No matter what Yan Wang wanted to change into, this scarred nation was indeed developing in a better direction.


Li Feng hoped to use Yan Wang's hands to completely clean up the previous dynasty's terminal illness and leave a clear and bright life for the Crown Prince in the future.


At the same time, however, he could never give his weak son to the hands of his younger brother who had the resolution to kill. If one day he was going to follow the former emperor, the first person he needed to deal with was Yan Wang, and the second was Gu Yun.


"No, go back to the palace. Call for the court tomorrow morning. When the day breaks, ask the prince to come over." Li Feng suddenly gave orders.


The internal servant was in confusion. They were talking about nanny Zhao's affairs, how come the Emperor, after a moment of silence, had moved on to the prince?


"And," Li Feng said again, "What about the memorial I brought back? Bring it to me. "


The memorial was written by Xu Ling. His idea of reforming the constitution of school was not very fluent, even a bit inexperienced, but it didn’t matter, they could leave it to the Grand Council to coordinate and improve it. The court was making a fuss about killing and beheading people and severely punishing the imperial examination fraud. Only a few scholars could think of the future.


If he could, Li Feng, like any ordinary father, would like to give his young son more years of shelter and let him play with grass crickets in the harem. But who knew what would soon happen in this era?




The next morning, the news of the great victory on the front lines of Liangjiang came straight down, all forces had not yet had time to respond to this sudden result, but for the first time, Li Feng took a clear stand and forcefully implemented two new policies at the great court meeting:


First, he agreed with the ‘Long An New Policy’ of the Grand Council on abolishing the Feng Huo tickets and changing the currency policy.


Second, in the court, he agreed with Xu Ling and the two courts’ requests for the reform of the constitution of the Imperial Academy, in which the imperfect parts would be led by the Grand Council, with the cooperation of the Imperial Academy, the Ministry of Rites, and the two courts to revise.

At the same time, Li Feng dragged Jiang Chong and the Ling Shu Institute out together in the court for a scolding, demanding them to speed up the investigation of fraud cases in the nine provinces at once. All the people involved, regardless of their origins, would be punished severely. He also ordered the Ling Shu Institute to think of a way to expand the steam rail line from the capital to Jiangnan. They must not give the Westerners room to breathe and waste this victory. They must continue this vigorous momentum and attain more victory.

Before the court was dismissed, Li Feng announced his final decision: the 11-year-old prince was about to attend the court.

This was the first time that Emperor Long An, who always had an ambiguous attitude, expressed his stand clearly at the great court meeting. He didn't disclose half a word with anyone in advance. Not only the Fang Qin Party, but the Grand Council's members were also in confusion.


Jiang Chong glanced at Yan Wang vaguely and said to himself, Did the Emperor take the wrong medicine?


Chang Geng's face did not show any difference. He stepped forward and plainly flattered him. Although he played politics, he was naturally born with a kind of immortal spirit of someone living in a remote forest. Even the posture of flattering seemed to be very indifferent, not taking winning or losing to heart, as if he had completely agreed with Li Feng in advance.


At that time, someone's face changed.


Li Feng knew in his heart that Yan Wang intended to borrow his influence, the civil and martial of the court all had their own plans, but it didn't matter, if he could build a ladder for Yan Wang, he could build a ladder for anyone.


This time, Li Feng used two political orders to push the Grand Council to the top of the storm. He wanted to see what those people who always brought up the Red Imperial Edict and Iron Plaque could do to Yan Wang, who had become a monk and only called ‘Royal Father’ once in all his life.




That day, the capital was doomed to a sleepless night.


In the Grand Council, Jiang Chong whispered to Chang Geng, "Your Highness, what should we do? Do we continue according to the original plan?"


Chang Geng said without hesitation, "Strike while the iron is hot."


Jiang Chong took a deep look at Chang Geng and asked, "Your Highness, if we are too forceful, what if they use their last resort?"


Chang Geng turned to look at him and said meaningfully, "What I'm afraid of is that they won't do it. Brother Han Shi, do you know what the most useful sentence I've learned in my life is?"


Jiang Chong suddenly felt incredibly frightened.


Chang Geng said, "On the battlefield, whoever doesn't want to die, will die first."





On his way home from the Grand Council, Chang Geng happened to run into Fang Qin's carriage. He told Huo Dan, "Let Master Fang go first."


After a while, Huo Dan ran back to report: "Your Highness, Lord Fang said he didn't dare to be impolite. He has already made way."


Chang Geng brushed aside the curtain and bowed to Fang Qin politely. They passed each other peacefully, as if they didn't want the other to perish.


Chang Geng leaned on the carriage and thought that if he and Fang Qin were to change places, he would endure this storm. When the new nobles in the imperial court occupied the transportation finance, then pushed it when their foundation was not stable and their expansion was too fast, at that time, he would simply wait silently for Li Feng to act —— the nobles like cobwebs in the imperial court had forces everywhere. If they were willing to pursue it slowly, there would be opportunities to restore the old system after the war.


Chang Geng also knew that with Fang Qin's nature, he must have also thought the same.


That was why even if he dragged everyone to walk on this string, he must not let him calmly wait for this opportunity.


Fang Qin watched until Yan Wang's carriage was already far away, then ordered his family servant to continue moving. The twilight around him slowly slipped into the long night. He seemed to see the general trend of the thread, running like flowing water in front of him, and he was helpless to stop it. The ten thousand mile-long dike he stepped on was made of sand and dust. It seemed to be mighty and magnificent, but in fact, it was of no use, the boundless world was countering to him.


Back at the Fang residence, as usual, there were already guests waiting for him. Grand Scholar Fang was no longer interested in cultivating towards immortality and seeking Tao. He was entertaining the guests in the front hall in person. As soon as Fang Qin entered, all the people present stood up and looked at him with various expressions.


Fang Qin also had an ominous premonition in his heart: "Father, what's the matter?"


Grand Scholar Fang's face sank like water and said, "Your yimei* was convicted of offending the empress today. She was just grounded and forbidden visits from relatives."

*义妹, adoptive younger sister


Madame Fang had a good relationship with the Emperor's Nanny Zhao. She jokingly asked Fang Qin's third younger brother to accept Madame Zhao as his adoptive mother. There was nothing involving Fang Qin here, but to show intimacy as a courtesy, he also called Madame Zhao's daughter on duty in the palace ‘yimei’ in front of outsiders.


Fang Qin said in surprise: "Why?"


"Why? There is no need for any reason," Grand Scholar Fang said slowly."Remember that year, His Majesty also called Gu Yun 'uncle', having deep affection since young, but still sent him to prison simply from one word of disagreement. Let alone those of us —— the present Emperor is cruel and ungrateful, truly makes people bitterly disappointed."


Fang Qin turned his head and told his family servant, "Send a letter to Imperial Duke Zhao at once, tell him to stop playing such a childish trick, he should know better."


As soon as he said this, everyone was in an uproar in the hall. Suddenly someone stood up and objected: "Master Fang, why are you extending your arm outside again?"


Fang Qin ignored the others, only stared at Grand Scholar Fang and said: "Father, can't you see? His Majesty is not the former emperor, everything can only go with his will. If you let him feel that he is being persecuted, he will inevitably rebound. We are only going to eradicate the Yan Wang Party. What's the use of picking a fight with the Emperor?"


Without waiting for Grand Scholar Fang to speak, Fang Qin said sharply: "I also want to protect my third brother, but if you want to go on like this, Third Brother will not be the only one involved. All of you here are all from our side, let me say a few unpleasant words: do you really think Imperial Duke Zhao has wiped his own bottom clean? If Yan Wang catches his weak point and makes use of it, then we will be even more passive!


"It was just a railway line, he did not allow it to be built, besides adding a little hindrance to Li Min, was there any real use? Gu Yun still mobilized the troops as usual, while your Foreign Affairs Mission can't even get to the front line! What else can you do now? Will you simply cut off supplies to the frontline and sell the country?"


He was already irritated for a long time, letting it all out in these words, not even saving face for his father. The surroundings were quiet for a moment, then one of them spoke up, "Then Master Fang intends to endure it?"


Fang Qin: "..."


He found that he could hardly communicate with these people, especially after Grand Scholar Fang came out of retirement again.


When fate was at its end, it was not because of the rapid development of the outside world that everything would be exhausted. In a big country with countless noble families, if each family could have one person who could serve as a pillar — didn't have to be many, and did not necessarily have to be exceptionally talented, or a master of literary and martial arts, as long as their brain was clear, self-conscious, and knew what to do and what not to do — then with the accumulation of generations, the Yan Wang Party, even with extraordinary abilities, would not be able to climb to their heads.


Fang Qin looked around and sneered. Having nothing else he could say, he left.


Grand Scholar Fang sat up with his eyes lowered, reached out his hand and stroked his beard. "My son is incompetent, how embarrassing."


Next to him, an official no longer able to lift his eyelids from old age said in a low voice: "Second Master is brilliant, but he is still too young and vigorous in the end."


At Fang Qin's age, he could hardly be called ‘young and vigorous’. However, Grand Scholar Fang shook his head meaningfully: "It's true, when Emperor Wu was in power, he was still young, he had not gone through these things, and had less experience. I feel that it is not a bad thing to conceal some things from the younger generations, to avoid making them worry too much.


"The old brothers who pushed the former emperor to the throne are still here, go back and gather your children and grandchildren. Maybe we will still be able to carry this out… But my unfilial son is also right. Tell Imperial Duke Zhao to restrain his recent childish endeavor. If he cannot kill in one move, then why waste the effort? He would only get laughed at."


However, Yan Wang did not give Imperial Duke Zhao the chance to restrain.


The next day, the Ling Shu Institute announced that the steam train had passed various rigorous testing and everything was ready. They sincerely asked Emperor Long An to come see it with his own eyes. Li Feng happily took the Crown Prince with him and rode the train for a while in person. However, before returning to the palace and waiting for the fresh excitement to pass, he received a letter urging for the railway completion from Yao Zhen, which successfully piled up the anxiety in the heart of Emperor Long An.


Piling up until the evening, when the Imperial Censorate brought the last bit of grass to ignite the Emperor's anger.


The Imperial Censorate accused that Imperial Duke Zhao was unjust, conniving his family members to embezzle and plunder the lands from farmers at a low price.


The Canal Office and Ling Shu Institute, jointly in charge of the steam rail line, immediately followed along with a large number of people who deliberately contributed to the situation, and quickly pushed the case to the point of explosion.


The forces Yan Wang had built up through all these years exposed a corner of the iceberg, the road for career ascension that had been blocked since the later years of Emperor Wu's rule was unclogged by him.


The reports of illegal land occupation in various places had been revealed in succession in a premeditated way, and finally implicated the problem of illegal land occupation going on in Great Liang for a long time.


At once, several bystanders watching the fun came out and asked for the whole country to be investigated —


Of course, this absurd proposal was rejected by Li Feng. Even if Li Feng wanted to display his authority to the noble families, he must untangle it one by one with each step, he could not have such a big appetite at one time.


However, Imperial Duke Zhao, the early bird, was unable to run away. He was arrested within a few days, later implicating a large number of his family members and disciples who were riding on his coat tail. At his arrest, the onlookers even climbed up the wall to see inside. The storytellers at the Wang Nan Tower compiled a new book in two days, which was very popular.


In his first time listening to politics, the Crown Prince was met with such a big case. The little boy had earned a lot more knowledge. He was stunned and watched on with wide eyes. His mind had also opened a lot more.


When the court was about to be dismissed, Yan Wang, who had not been very vocal, suddenly asked, "What does Your Highness think?"


The little Crown Prince was well protected by Li Feng, he was innocent and did not have a calculating mind. He once ‘consulted’ his fourth uncle under Li Feng's order. When he heard Chang Geng's question, he blurted out without hesitation what he had been taught by others: "Han Fei* has said, 'a ruler with no skills will be fooled by their subjects, subjects bound by no rules will run rampant.' The stability of the country depends on the law. For people, there are four kinds: virtuous, foolish, loyal, and traitorous. For matters, there are right and wrong. If the law system is unclear, it will make the party and the masses run rampant, the villains run rampant, then...the person in charge will not be able to control anymore."


*a philosopher


His voice was still childish, he was like a schoolboy who was picked in class to answer his teacher's questions. He looked at Chang Geng with eyes filled with great expectations.


Chang Geng only smiled but didn't speak. Li Feng scolded him with a straight face: "Only repeating what was in the book, what is there to be proud of. Go back and work hard. Don't slack off."


The Crown Prince did not dare to say anything, he had to answer with his head down, but his childish words had a different meaning in the ears of the others.



For those who used themselves to measure others, even if they saw a young child, they would still feel that the boy was as full of schemes, whose every word was laced with deep meaning such as themselves.


That night, the 11-year-old Crown Prince's words spread out of the forbidden palace like wildfire. Concealing this matter from Fang Qin, Scholar Fang gathered together all the old jackals who had once helped the former emperor, splitting every little bit of the Crown Prince's saliva to analyze, and understood Li Feng's meaning.


"It's been three generations," Grand Scholar Fang sneered, "It's hard to reach the grace of heaven. The gentlemen must have seen, the Emperor let the Crown Prince listen to politics, he is determined to claim the lives of us old men."


Another person said: "If it wasn't for Wang Guo causing trouble, our plan would have gone properly, Yan Wang should have had his title stripped by mixing up the royal blood and would have been sent to a remote place by now. This bastard child who came out of nowhere dares to ride on our heads. Brother Fang, if we are not decisive, we will suffer."


Grand Scholar Fang's tensed features turned sharp. He looked around slowly and said in a low voice, "Would you mind writing the words in your heart into your palm."


Many years ago, this group of ambitious conspirators once came together, showing their hands, the name of the Former Emperor Yuan He was written on them. At this time, they were already on their last legs, some were old and some were dead. They reunited once more to show their old hands——


"Clean up the Emperor’s side*."


"Clean up the Emperor’s side."


"Clean up the Emperor’s side, the First Prince no longer has a mother."


*the characters written on their hands were 清君侧 - Qing Jun Ce, meaning to rid the ruler's side of traitorous subjects