Chapter 12 – Inciting Conflict

The court meeting in Xuande Palace.

Up until now, Zhu Yunxuan has been listening to Liang Zhen and Zeng Huai arguing for thirty minutes straight over suitable candidates who can assume the position as the new chief commander. They each adhere to yesterday’s viewpoints and refuse to give in. A red flush spread from Zeng Huai’s face up to his neck as he became increasingly worked-up the more he spoke. Liang Zhen on the other hand appeared to be unfazed and only replied to the other party once in a while, yet each of his sentences was laced with malice, giving no respect for the newly appointed chief administrator. Yan Shixue provided Zeng Huai assistance in the sidelines, yet even with the two of them combined, they still cannot go up against Liang Zhen, who is both shameless and unpredictable in his words, so they fall back in defeat.

The spectators stood idly by and no one was willing to voice out their opinion. 

Zhu Yunxuan’s brow gradually furrowed as his eyes slowly swept through the crowd before landing on Liang Zhen, and interrupted their endless dispute after pausing for a moment: “Let’s allow the Ministry of Affairs to select the suitable candidates, there won’t be a final conclusion to this argument. They can submit the list of names to me for inspection after coming to a consensus.”

All the officials from the Ministry of Affairs rushed out from the line and respectfully accepted the order.

Liang Zhen glanced towards Zhu Yunxuan’s direction and gently raised his lip, yet Zhu Yunxuan retracted his gaze and was no longer staring at him. 

 

Two days later, both sides reached an agreement and presented the nomination list to the imperial court. 

There were a total of three individuals, and two of whom were generals from Beijing. Xu Sen, the deputy general of the capital southern camp had his name majestically listed after being promoted by Liang Zhen.

 

The Minister of Affairs lowered his head and reported in trepidation: “Deputy general Ding of the solitary pass is obstinate and has the tendency of acting too aggressively, so he is not suitable to be promoted as the new commander-in-chief. Deputy commander Jiang is still young, and we all agree to dispatch someone from central Beijing instead. These three men are all veterans with stable characteristics and many years of experience in leading the army, so they will be able to shoulder this important task. Please make your decision majesty.”

 

Zhu Yunxuan indifferently glared at the large assemble of officials who showed up reporting him of this matter with each of their heads lowered in a cautious and respectful attitude. But as to whether or not they are actually loyal to him, perhaps only they themselves are aware. 

“Are these candidates formulated after all your discussions?”

 

The Minister of Military Affairs replied: “They were chosen by me after several deliberations.”

A moment of silence has passed, before Zhu Yunxuan suppressed his anger and said: “Allow me to reconsider this, all of you can now be dismissed.”

 

After the crowd departed, Zhu Yunxuan raised his hand and swept off all the brushes, inkstones and paperweights on the table in front of him. Immediately afterwards, the servants in the palace knelt down as Gao’an advised him with a bitter expression: “Your majesty, please take it easy.”

“Take it easy?” Zhu Yunxuan was enraged into smirking, “Does anyone truly care as to whether or not I was displeased? Each of you appear to comply but are secretly opposing me, and no one is willing to take me seriously. Do any of you still remember that I am supposed to be emperor?”

 

After his words subsided, Liang Zhen just so happens to walk through the entrance. Upon witnessing this scene, he raised his eyebrows and said: “Just which insensible bastard has provoked you and caused you to be this furious, your majesty?”

 

Zhu Yunxuan lifted his gaze and directed a stern look towards Liang Zhen as he gnashed his teeth in anger: “You are truly capable, Lord Zhao. In this entire court room, are there still any officials who aren’t bribed by you?”

 

Liang Zhen softly chuckled: “I don’t understand what your majesty is trying to imply.”

“Don’t you feign ignorance in front of me! I allowed the Ministry of Affairs to select suitable candidates to assume the position as the new commander of the Solitary Pass. Yet the ones mentioned by them are all your fellow confidants from the Encampment of Beijing?!”

Liang Zhen lightly shook his head: “Your majesty, as I’ve mentioned before, I do not have any selfish motives regarding this matter. The reason why Ding Yang is unsuitable is not only because of his inherently irresponsible nature, but also……”

 

“But also what?!”

 

“Why must you force me to make my words clear, your majesty?” Liang stared directly towards Zhu Yunxuan and spoke in a profound tone: “Furthermore, both him and the other deputy commander of the solitary pass, Jiang Yan, are trusted subordinates of General Dingyuan, they pledge their loyalty and are willing to risk anything for him. But now that you are dead-set on dispatching General Dingyuan to the south, and leaving his confidants to guard the northwest border. Are you not the least bit concerned about him handling such a massive army with a formerly abolished crown prince by his side?”

 

Zhu Yunxuan was stunned for a while before his expression gradually turned unsightly as anger completely tainted his dark irises: “There’s no need for Lord Zhao to stir up conflict on the spot. I don’t have faith in anyone else, but General Dingyuan has gained my absolute trust. I don’t want you to make a subjective assumption about the intention of others.”

 

Liang Zhen smiled: “If General Dingyuan is the one being criticized, then what about me? People’s hearts are changeable, have your majesty heard of this saying? After fleeing under the guise of death, does the abolished prince genuinely have no difficulties with getting a hold of himself? The throne in which you are seated on should’ve been his. What would you do if he truly is harboring ill intentions with General Dingyuan now aiding him?”

 

Zhu Yunxuan snapped: “Keep your mouth shut! I am well aware of what my elder brother is like, I will not allow you to slander him so wantonly!”

 

Taking a step forward, Liang Zhen stubbornly kept speaking, as his words gradually became more bold and aggressive: “I understand that the brotherly affection between your majesty and the abolished prince are deep-rooted, but how much can this affection amount to before the throne? Supposing that the abolished crown prince is the one occupying this position today, and your majesty is willing to assist him in governing the nation, I’m sure that he will be lenient towards you. Yet on contrary of what is to be expected, you are the one who became the emperor instead, and he has fallen from being a crowned prince to a fugitive who cannot see the light of day that must rely on changing his name to live a miserable life. Do you genuinely believe that he will let go of this grudge after falling from grace? You trust him and General Dingyuan without a doubt, if he is able to take advantage of the occasion, can you be certain that he won’t seize the opportunity to shift the blame onto you and develop ill intentions?”

 

“Keep your mouth shut for me! Shut up!” Zhu Yunxuan is enraged to the point where he has to place his hands on the table for support. He clenched his teeth and stared at Liang Zhen with crimson eyes: “Hear me out, I obtained this throne for my elder brother’s sake, and if he wants it back, then so be it, there’s no need for you to intervene!”

 

After Zhu Yunxuan finished speaking, his knees went weak and fainted. Liang Zhen’s pupils fiercely contrasted before rushing over and catching him in his arms. 

 

Gao’an instantly went into a panic before instructing someone to summon the imperial physician in a hurry. He looked at Zhu Yunxuan who is currently within Liang Zhen’s embrace with a sorrowful expression, and whiningly explained: “Our majesty spent less than two hours per day resting ever since ascending to throne, and has dedicated himself to managing national affairs. Two days ago, he suffered from a fever and refused to inform the imperial physician, only saying that it’s not a big deal to be fussed about, so this servant genuinely cannot urge him……”

 

Liang Zhen’s gaze darken before hauling the person in his arms towards the bedchambers.

The imperial physician showed up in a hurry, and explained that Zhu Yunxuan had merely caught a fever by checking his pulse and would be fine after taking two doses of medicine. Leaning against the couch, Liang Zhen furrowed his eyebrows and asked: “Why hasn’t our majesty woken up yet?”

 

The imperial physician lowered his head, and didn’t even dare to breathe heavily before answering with caution: “Your majesty’s mind is clouded by fury just now, and has lost consciousness due to the fact that he didn’t manage to inhale his breath properly. During the next few days, if his body doesn’t undergo any more stress or simulation, he will surely sober up after a while.”

 

“There’s actually not a problem?”

 

“Our majesty can handle this because he has a great fortitude due to his young age, but such behaviors cannot be continued. The health of the emperor is vital, so that is why he must take care of his own body. I’ll write down a few more prescriptions, our majesty will be able to safely recuperate for a period of time as long as he is willing to take occasional rests and corporate by consuming the prescribed medicine.”

Liang Zhen nodded: “You can go ahead and write down the prescription.”

Zhu Yunxuan cuddled himself in bed with his eyelids shut tight, seemingly unable to find peace even in his sleep. Tucking in his quilt, Liang Zhen focused his eyes on him while remaining on the sidelines. 

Gan’an’s constant sobbing got onto Liang Zhen’s nerves, causing him to rebuke in a whisper: “Get lost if you are unable to stop whining. See it for yourself, do you even have the slight appearance of a chief eunuch? And is this the way in which you serve our majesty?”

He suddenly felt a surge of regret, thinking that he should’ve kept that geezer Feng Sheng alive, because he could at least keep an eye out for Zhu Yunxuan on his behalf. 

 

Gao’an wiped the tears off his face and was about to leave before Liang Zhen called out for him to stop once again: “Let me ask you. Is your majesty genuinely concerned about selecting a suitable candidate to take up the position as the commander of the solitary pass?”

“Yes…… of course……”

“What exactly did that Court Elder Zeng say to him?”

Gao’an is hesitant to speak as Liang Zhen narrowed his eyes: “What, are you not allowed to reveal anything?”

“……. This servant does not dare to make presumptions regarding these matters, so please forgive me, my lord.” Gao’an stiffly finished speaking and refused to say another word before retreating after giving a bow. 

 

Liang Zhen sneered. There’s no need for him to even guess that the old geezer must’ve warned Zhu Yunxuan about him harboring ulterior motives of potentially controlling the military power of solitary pass because he insisted on dispatching people from the capital. With the guidance of that old geezer, he is afraid that Zhu Yunxuan would avoid him from a thousand miles away.

After a while, Liang Zhen lowered his head and planted a kiss on Zhu Yunxuan’s lips before sighing softly. 

Nevermind, I won’t go against you this time.

 

It was nearly dusk by the time Zhu Yunxuan woke up, and when he caught sight of Liang Zhen sitting beside his bed, the look on his face was immediately darkened by several degrees before he silently gestured for Gao’an: “Prop me up.”

Gao’an braced him, Zhu Yunxuan received the freshly delivered medicine, and finished it all in one go without batting an eyelid. Liang Zhen observed his movements closely before hooking his lip once Zhu Yunxuan was done: Soon after ascending to the throne your majesty has already fallen ill. With such a delicate constitution, just how long are you able to maintain your position without the exploitation of others?”

 

Zhu Yunxuan sullenly glanced towards him: “Have you had enough?”

 

Liang Zhen lightly shook his head: “Your majesty, it’s not as if I am intentionally provoking you, so why do you have to act like this towards me?”

 

Zhu Yunxuan wearily closed his eyes: “Dismissed.”

 

“In the future, make sure you rest everyday before midnight, I’ll be paying a daily visit to your living quarters.”

 

 “You—— !”

 

“According to the imperial physician, it is for the best if your majesty can restrain your temper and value your health.”

“Then don’t make me lose my temper with you!”

Zhu Yunxuan’s eyes reddened. 

Seeing as tears blurred his vision, Liang Zhen had the urge to laugh. In the past, he has overheard the palace elders discussing how lively and brilliant this fifth prince once was, even though he now has the authority of an emperor, his inner temperament hasn’t changed at all. 

His inability to cope with unjustness caused his eyes to water up each time after being teased, truly the definition of a sheep in a wolf’s clothing. 

Suppressing the urge to laugh, he said: “Your majesty, if outsiders were to see you in such a state, you will no longer have the majestic presence of an emperor.”

Zhu Yunxuan spoke with indifference: “Do you not consider yourself as an outsider, Lord Zhao?”

Liang Zhen smiled meaningfully and did not continue the conversation. 

 

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