Chapter 16 – Taking Advantage of One’s Seniority

Spring transitioned into summer as the departure of autumn is followed by the arrival of winter. When the first heavy snowfall descended on the new era of Jingrui, it was already late December. Today, the emperor will be performing a ritual to worship the heavens, and it was an important occasion for Zhu Yunxuan because this is the first year that he ascended to the throne. 

Zhu Yunxuan woke up during the darkest hours of the night. All the candles in his bed-chamber were lit while dozens of eunuchs were helping him to wash up and get dressed. Zhu Yunxuan appeared to be exhausted and his entire body felt rather sluggish since he only slept a wink due to the frigid condition from last night. Even if there were antispasmodic herbs and several braziers in his bed-chamber, it’s still cold to the extent where he is unable to fall asleep despite tossing around. It’s possible that he caught a cold again as he felt excruciating pain in his throat as soon as he drowsily got up. 

Gao’an knelt on the ground to tie his waist belt and spoke with concern after he heard Zhu Yunxuan’s faint coughs: “Your majesty, why don’t you summon the imperial physician for an inspection and drink a bowl of medicine before departing?”

“No need. Today is the worshipping ritual, we mustn’t be late.” 

In the early morning, the emperor’s royal carriage was surrounded by a vast number of convoys as they marched towards the Heavenly Temple of Huanqiu in the southern city. 

As the assembly of convoys exited the palace gate, Liang Zhen embarked on the imperial carriage under the cover of the dark night. Zhu Yunxuan was resting his eyes inside and didn’t even bother to open them when he heard the commotion because there can only be one person who has the nerve to climb onto the imperial carriage without being summoned. 

Liang Zhen gave him the brazier in his hands and casually asked: “Your majesty has a pale complexion and dark circles under the eye, is it because you are unable to have a proper sleep last night?” 

Zhu Yunxuan did not respond, so Liang Zhen reach over and clutch his palm which turned out to be entirely frigid: “Do the palace attendances not know how to serve you? It’s quite fortunate that I brought a hand-warming brazier along with me.”

He spoke as he went over and grasped Zhu Yunxuan’s lap, causing the other party to finally open his eyes before glaring at him with an impatient frown: “What are you intending to do, Lord Zhao?” 

Liang Zhen smiled before he strap a pair of kneepads on him and covered his body with an imperial robe: “It’s cold out there and the ritual is estimated to take serval hours, I am afraid that your majesty’s knees wouldn’t be able to outlast for long.” 

“Take it off.” Zhu Yunxuan coldly ordered. 

“Why should I? I am doing this for your majesty’s sake.”

Zhu Yunxuan’s eyebrows were tightly knitted together: “Worshipping the heaven is a matter of sincerity, how can I evade such responsibility?”

Liang Zhen objected: “How is this considered slacking off? Has anyone indicated that wearing kneepads are insincere?  When did your majesty become so persistent in adhering to the old customs?”

That Grand Secretary Zeng probably taught him all of this. Liang Zhen shook his head; This old geezer is never up to any good. 

Seeing that Zhu Yunxuan is still in a distressed state, Liang Zhen spoke up once more: “Your majesty should relax, you are the emperor after all, and God definitely cannot bear to see you suffering from the cold. Not to mention, the officials out there are all wearing kneepads, you are the only one who is being so sincere.”

Zhu Yunxuan closed his eyes, he of course is aware of that. During the reign of the former emperor, all nobles who tagged along would be fully armed to the brim and slack off by using all means possible; this is what he used to be best at. But today’s different, the one sitting on the throne is him and he will also be the one worshipping the gods. His position as the emperor doesn’t belong to him in the first place, and he has never felt at ease in the past year ever since his ascension with so many pairs of eyes watching from the sidelines. He merely thought that he can receive a bit of divine blessing from heaven by having sincerity, 

Liang Zhen saw through his thoughts with a single glance and nonchalantly spoke up while strapping on the pair of kneepads for him: “It’s better to rely on ourselves than to rely on heaven. There’s no need for your majesty to hold gods in such a high regard.”

Zhu Yunxuan furiously interrupted him: “Aren’t you being too excessive to the extent of not even acknowledging the gods, Lord Zhao?” 

Liang Zhen raised his gaze towards him with a hidden smile: “I don’t acknowledge heaven or ghost spirits, I only have faith in myself. Likewise, your majesty can have faith in me if you are willing.” 

Zhu Yunxuan was stunned for a moment and closed his eyes once more before remaining silent. 

Liang Zhen no longer bothered him and disembark from the carriage after keeping him company for a while. Zhu Yunxuan’s mood is rather complicated, and he hesitated for a long a time before ultimately calling someone up to untie that pair of kneepads for him. 

The bell of Taihe rang at dawn. Zhu Yunxuan dismounted from his carriage and walked through the Temple of Heaven’s southern gate and stride step by step up the Huanqiu altar. 

As soon as the clamor of the bell came to a halt and the beats of drums rang out, the ceremony will officially begin. 

On the altar, the lanterns were suspended high above, and the burnt wood stove was filled with smoke. In the mist, the emperor led the royal family and the officials to worship the memorial tablet of Hao Tian God before arriving at the ancestral tomb to offer incense and perform the ritual after returning to their worship position. 

The cold wind was penetrating to the bones and the snowfall descended at a constant pace. Zhu Yunxuan’s coronet, clothes and shoulders were covered with snowflakes, but his body was tense as he meticulously completed each movement. 

This is just the opening stage. The ceremony is a solemn matter, repeatedly kowtowing with dedication is required and not even a single mistake can be forsaken. Liang Zhen is kneeling among the noblemen, and he can not help but slightly frown after spotting his thin figure on the altar repeatedly bowing down.

When he stood up once again to offer the gods his cup, Liang Zhen, who had been watching him with attentiveness, clearly saw that Zhu Yunxuan stumbled as he walked and spilled half of the wine in his cup. But the ministers were all kneeling on the ground with their heads lowered, therefore, no one else noticed.

This worshipping ceremony took a total of two hours before finally coming to an end at noon, and on his returning trip, Zhu Yunxuan was cold to the extent of losing all sensations in his body. After arriving at Ganlin Palace, he fainted as soon as he entered the gate with others propping him up. 

The imperial physician rushed over and Zhu Yunxuan only restored his consciousness after an acupuncture treatment. Once he opened his eyes, he spotted Liang Zhen who was sitting to the side while staring at him with a frown on his face. 

Zhu Yunxuan asked him in a murmur: “Why are you here, Lord Zhao?” 

“I cannot rest assured about your majesty so I decided to pay a visit and ended up overhearing that you’ve fainted. The imperial physician mentioned that you suffered from a cold and must remain in bed to recuperate.” 

Liang Zhen shook his head as he spoke. Prior to becoming an emperor, Zhu Yunxuan was not as delicate, but now he would fall ill once in a while because his health is seemingly deteriorating. 

Zhu Yunxuan gestured for Gao’an to prop him up before he lean against the headboard and warily said: “I am fine.” 

“Your majesty does not need to overexert yourself, if you are genuinely doing fine then you would not have fainted upon returning.” 

It seems that Zhu Yunxuan still had something else to add but a few underlings came to inform him that Lord Xian was waiting outside with a assemble of noblemen, urging his majesty to take action as soon as possible. 

Zhu Yunxuan furrow his eyebrows: “What time is it?” 

“It’s already evening.” 

He surprisingly slept for almost a whole hour and it’s almost time for him to lead the noblemen to an ancestral statue of the imperial temple for performing the worshipping ritual in the afternoon. Zhu Yunxuan immediately instructed in a serene tone: “Help me get dressed.” 

Liang Zhen leaned over and stopped his movements: “Your majesty, are you sure that you wanted to show up at the imperial temple under such a condition? How about we change it to some other day?”

Zhu Yunxuan refused but Liang Zhen advised him: “With your sickly appearance, I am sure that your ancestor will not be happy to see you. It would do no harm if you were to go there after you finished recovering in two days. Furthermore, are you even capable of walking on foot right now?” 

A trace of hesitation appeared on Zhu Yuxuan’s face, and Liang Zhen lowered his voice before adding: “In any case, that old emperor probably does not want to see you either.”

Upon hearing these words, Zhu Yunxuan’s eyes flickered for a moment and he instructed Gao’an with a dark expression: “Go ahead and inform them that they should go by themselves because I am not feeling well and will be performing the ceremony on another day.” 

Gao’an received his instructions and showed up at the outer palace. 

The noise of commotions can be heard transmitting from the outside, and Lord Xian’s voice was particularly prominent as he shouted: “Your Majesty, worshipping the ancestral temple and offering sacrifices to heaven was a rule set by Emperor Taizu, you are bounded to follow the custom.” 

 

Zhu Yunxuan’s gaze darkened immediately and Liang Zhen raised his eyebrows. A eunuch entered with an embarrassed look on their face before reporting that Lord xian was the one taking the lead among the imperial officials who were kneeling outside to beg for his majesty to arrive at the scene so as to not break the ancestral rules.”

“Lord Xian said…… said that the way you are defying your ancestors is disrespectful. He even mentioned that he will continue to kneel outside if you do not show up, and eunuch Gao is currently pacifying them……” 

Once that eunuch finished speaking, the beads of sweat on his temple came dripping down, and he lowered his head without the guts to look at Zhu Yunxuan. 

Liang Zhen snickered: “This old geezer has taken his seniority as an advantage, but is he even worthy to pressure his majesty by relying on the ancestral customs?” 

 

Zhu Yunxuan restrained his temper before asking: “Are you certain that he said that?”

“Of course, the entire crowd has taken Lord Xian’s lead in prostrating, us underlings cannot pacify them.” 

Liang Zhen wasn’t bothered: “Your majesty, there’s no need for you to pay any heed to them. Those old geezers are just showing off their eloquence with the intention of seeking your favor. They are used to receiving extravagant treatment, so even if they were to kneel, how long can they persist? Perhaps they will lose interest after less than two hours and get up on their own without your persuasion.” 

Zhu Yunxuan did not say anything as his eyes were downcast and filled with indiscernible emotions. 

Liang Zhen frowned: “There’s no need for your majesty to show up if you are unwilling. Is there any use for you to nurse a grievance after being pressured?”

Zhu Yunxuan said: “Have I not suffered from any less pressure? It won’t hurt additionally more if I were to fall in the same pit multiple times.”

His underlings waited for him to change into his ceremony robe, and Liang Zhen watched from the sidelines with his sleeves rolled up before going forward to accept a leather belt in the eunuch’s grasp: “This lord will do it myself.”

He personally fastens the belt for Zhu Yunxuan, yet the other party appears to be calm and allowed him to move as he pleased by staying motionless. 

After smoothing out the outer garment, Liang Zhen looked at the submissive emperor in front of him and raised his hands to caress the other party’s face: “You are going to the Imperial Temple without having supper?”

Zhu Yunxuan shook his head: “It’s too late, we can’t allow the crowd to remain kneeling outside. Once word gets out tomorrow, the entire court will become aware that I am someone who has dishonored my ancestors.”

Liang Zhen scoffed: “Those gossipy individuals can be directly disposed of. Why bother wasting your concern on them?

Zhu Yunxuan said with a smile: “If you were me, you would be a true tyrant that throttles the freedom of his nation.”

“What’s wrong with being a tyrant? Being a righteous ruler must’ve been exhausting.”

There are rarely any emperors in this world who is not concerned about their reputation or the way in which future generations will judge them. 

He is not an unrestrained individual like Liang Zhen, so he naturally cannot act according to his wishes.

Seeing Zhu Yunxuan’s gloomy expression, Liang Zhen leaned close to his ear and whispered: “Don’t worry your majesty. For those who have wronged you in the past — Just you wait as I give each one of them the same treatment on your behalf.” 

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3 thoughts on “Chapter 16 – Taking Advantage of One’s Seniority”

  1. Liang Zhen as a dad:

    Just skip school lol.
    Teacher gave you a bad mark? Don’t worry we’ll fire him immediately.
    Someone bullied you? Here, take this knife–

    Reply

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