The night is so dark that even a trace of light can not be leaked through, during the gloomiest hour before daybreak, the sudden sound of Yunban1 cut through the pitch-black fog and endlessly resonated throughout the imperial city.
: 云板: An instrument or a tool used to convey the masses of the time, the reason why it’s called 云板 is because the tool shapes like a cloud (There’s no clock during the ancient eras so that’s the only way people get to know the time)
The emperor has ascended to heaven2.
: 殡天: A fancy term used to describe an individual with a high status has passed away
Hundreds of eunuchs got onto their knees outside of the palace gate, prostrating on the ground, while weeping aloud.
Within the Ganlin Palace, the grand secretary Zhang Nianling presented forth the brocade box containing the imperial decree with a quivering hand, and slowly opened it under the countless attentive gazes of the crowd.
Imperial Consort Chen, who originally almost lost her consciousness due to the amount of crying, held out her handkerchief to cover her face, her whimpers became quieter, while her glistening gaze was eagerly observing Zhang Nianling’s every movement.
Zhu Yunxuan cast his gaze downwards as the corners of his eye gradually redden. His stiff expression appears to be particularly solemn, yet his hands were clenched into a fist under the sleeves of his over-sized garment.
Zhang Nianling slowly spread open the imperial decree and recited it in a deep tone: “I, while lacking ability, am fortunate to inherit this great country from my ancestors. It has been twenty-four years since I became the emperor and during this period of time, I desire to develop this nation while working day and night without rest. So I am afraid something unforeseen may happen to me. The ninth prince … Has outstanding talent, and great fortune bestowed by heaven, is best suited to be crown Prince. However, he is still young, and should concentrate on his studies. Zhaowang … Is mature and skilled beyond the norm, should be granted the title of prince regent, taking care of this country’s governing, as well as teaching the Crown Prince in leading the nation. I’ll make it known to the people here and over in the foreign nations, so everyone can be aware of my intentions.”
Zhu Yunxuan sunk his fingertips deep into his palms and tightly clenched his teeth together.
As Zhang Nianling’s last word subsided, the entire palace was temporarily shrouded in silence. The next moment, the ignorant nineth prince who only has the ability to wail aloud was supported up by someone. A group of governing officials in the lead of Zhang Nianling is already on their knees in front of the prince, preparing to pay their respects to the new emperor.
Yet Liang Zhen who had been hiding behind the crown suddenly stated: “Hold on a moment.”
Zhang Nianling instantly furrowed his brow and reminded him using a deep voice: “If there’s anything that Zhaowang wishes to add, it would be better to save it for later.”
“There won’t be enough time afterwards.”
Liang Zhen unhurriedly stood up and strolled beside Zhang Nianling. Imperial Consort Chen furiously glared at him who happened to interrupt at this moment, yet Liang Zhen paid no mind to it and solely questioned Zhang Nianling: “Could I be allowed to examine the Imperial decree?”
Zhang Nianling’s brows knitted together: “What is Zhaowang’s implication behind this? Is it possible to suspect the falsification of the imperial decree?!”
Liang Zhen spoke in an indifferent manner: “Fake or not, I’ll only know after examining it. There’s no need for Elder Zhang to be so anxious as such, this only makes it seem like you have a guilty conscience.”
Zhang Nianling was seized with surprise for a moment before turning furious: “Ostentatious! How dare you youngsters slander this old fellow!
“Then why don’t you present the imperial decree forth in order to let everyone examine it.” Liang Zhen’s tone wasn’t harsh, yet his attitude is utterly unyielding, not giving any chance to let others interfere.
Not only Zhang Nianling, but the other two elders who were also ordered to keep the imperial decree under watch turned red. Feudal officials were most concerned about their own reputation, whether it’s about Liang Zhen harboring suspicion towards them, or involving themselves in the slaughter of the nine generations3 punishment.
: The slaughter of nine generation punishment is executed upon someone who has committed a major crime such as usurping the throne. (In short terms, it basically means wiping out their entire next generations of lineage)
The expressions of crowd within the palace changed without an exception as various kinds of gazes which contained suspicion settled upon Zhang Nianling. Among the assembling of the imperial clansmen, somebody took the lead and shouted: “If that’s the case, then why don’t the elders allow us to take a look at this imperial decree!”
Zhu Yunxuan swept a glance at the speaker in a composed manner, he is one of Emperor Zhaoyang’s cousins, granted the title of King Xian.
All the royalties of the Zhu clan, not including the ones who has been granted a portion of land, none of Emperor Zhaoyang’s blood-related siblings were still residing in the capital nowadays. So, King Xian can only be regarded as Emperor Zhaoyang’s most intimate relative in this generation and is also someone who has been kindly treated by him. Even if the assembling of the princes encountered him, they would still need to formally acknowledge him as imperial uncle.
Zhang Nianling is greatly offended, yet he had no choice but the offer up the imperial decree to Liang Zhen: “Zhaowang should clearly examine it with your eyes wide open! This imperial decree was written by his majesty the emperor himself when he was still alive, so is there any evidence of fabrication!”
Liang Zhen received it in a nonchalant manner, swept a quick glance at it once, then casted his gaze downward: “Such a coincidence, it just so happens that I also have a copy of the imperial decree which is written by his majesty the emperor himself when he is still alive as well. But regarding the contents…… I am not sure whether it will be identical or not. Eunuch Feng is present when his majesty the emperor is writing down the imperial decree, he is also a witness like me. If not, then allow Eunuch Feng to give us a testimony.”
Zhang Nianling is overwhelmed: “How is it possible that there’s another copy of the imperial decree! And how can an old fellow like me not be informed of it! What exactly are you intending to achieve?!”
Liang Zhen indifferently fired a question back at him: “By what means does elder must be obliged to know that another imperial decree does not exist? You haven’t even scanned through it yet, so what is it that elder is being so anxious about?”
The entire palace was in an uproar, and a group of people started to exchange whispers with one another. Imperial Consort Chen clutched the handkerchief in her palm, while fixedly glaring at Liang Zhen. Yet Liang Zhen pay none of his concern to it and once again reminded Zhang Nianling whose expression has already darkened: “Hurry up and scan through the imperial decree, for the sake of letting the emperor to be reassured as well as bringing relief to the land.”
King Xian exclaimed: “Read, read, read! We must read it of course!”
It doesn’t matter what thoughts the other may have on it, they all chime in to express their agreement: “Considering that there’s another copy of the imperial decree, then we naturally have to skim through it of course.”
“Precisely, this imperial decree is also from his majesty after all ah.”
“Hurry up and skim through it, what are you being so skeptical about……”
Feng Sheng spread open the imperial and unhurriedly recited it aloud.
The contents in the first part are identical, but it changed completely from the middle portion and onwards.
“The fifth son of the emperor, Yunxuan, titled King of Rui has shown selfless devotion to duty and is a virtuous talent that has been long-recognised. In consideration of our ancestral traditions and in accordance to the hearts of civilians, the title of emperor should thus be granted to……”
Before the reciting of the imperial decree had concluded, Imperial Consort Chen lost her voice and exclaimed aloud: “This can’t be!”
She stumbled up onto her feet, attempting to snatch the imperial decree away from Feng Sheng’s hand as she lost her composure and shouted: “This is fake! This must be fake! You guys got some balls! Even daring to wear the pretense of acting on an imperial order in an effort to conspire for the throne!”
Feng Sheng knitted his brows and stepped backwards, complaining of an injustice: “Madam, please be more understanding ah! This servant won’t dare to commit such a treacherous crime even if you grant this servant ten thousand guts!”
The commotion made by Imperial Consort Chen also startled Zhu Yunqiong which caused him to start wailing aloud. Zhu Yunxuan firmly pursed his lip without saying a word, he could sense that a great deal of eyes were turned towards his direction that contained awe, suspicion as well as scrutiny.
Zhang Nianling’s whole body is shivering in anger: “Preposterous! Preposterous! You…… you guys have got some balls.”
Liang Zhen nevertheless has a nonchalant appearance on his face: “Then that’s quite unusual, the contents on both of the imperial decrees differentiate from each other to such a degree……”
“The one you have is definitely a fabrication!”
Several governing officials exclaimed in unison from behind, each with their faces turning crimson due to anger. Liang Zhen turned a deaf ear to them and merely said: “Considering that there are two completely separate imperial decrees, then let’s hear what the spectators have to say.”
Both copies of the imperial decree were circulated around in the hands of the crowd. The handwriting on them appears to be the same on surface, since all of them originated from the hands of the emperor and were imprinted with the imperial jade seal as well, but it’s only due to the difference in the contents that truly made it difficult for others to arrive at a conclusion.
Another governing official from behind Zhang Nianling refuted: “The day when his majesty summoned us to the palace, the three of us were present when he wrote down the imperial decree with his own hands! So how is it possible that it’s a falsification! It’s obvious that you, Zhaowang, have hidden motives, thus attempting to create another decree with the intention of usurping the throne!”
Liang Zhen’s expression chilled: “Conspiring and usurping the throne? Is there any reason for me to do so? The fifth prince, titled as King of Rui, has been chosen to ascend the throne according to the decree. The King of Rui and I never crossed paths with each other before, so why would I risk committing a crime which results in receiving the slaughtering of nine generations in order to help him?”
Without waiting for the other party to refute, he added: “The ninth prince is my nephew nonetheless, while his mother Imperial Consort Chen is my cousin, and not to mention that she also shared the surname Liang with me. On the topic of offering help, it should only be appropriate for me the offer them help instead. Furthermore, the imperial decree in your hands states that the position of prince regent is granted to me, so why would I bother giving up the position of regency if I truly am conspiring to usurp the throne, and instead put my life on the line for the fifth prince whom has no ties of kinship with me whatsoever?”
Imperial Consort Chen is furious to a degree: “Liang Zhen! You did this on purpose! How could you commit such an act! You ——”
Liang Zhen directed a cold glance towards her direction and reminded her in a deep voice: “Madam Imperial Consort Chen, be careful with your manners.”
Sensing his gaze which was dripping with frostiness, Imperial Consort Chen was seized with terror as cold sweat broke out from her back for no apparent reason. After reminding herself of certain incidents, her lips slightly trembled and she lost the guts to speak up again.”
Zhang Nianling cursed in anger: “How dare you!”
Liang Zhen retorted with sarcasm: “Don’t rely on the fact that you elders have the highest rank among the officials, so decided to act in collusion for the sake of deceiving the emperor and neglecting the superiors while disrupting the imperial system. Falsifying the decree of succession is tantamount to a crime of treason. You guys are being so firmly determined for the sake of letting an infant become a puppet emperor, so what exactly are you guy’s intentions? Is it that the position of a governing official is not enough to satisfy you, so you wish to substitute a new regime for the old?”
“You——!” Zhang Nianling was so enraged by Liang Zhen’s aggressive attitude that he was unable to breathe properly, and almost lost consciousness. He is barely able to stand up straight even by relying on the support of his fellow associates.
The crowd within the main palace exchanged glances with one another, nobody had the guts to speak up at this moment.
Liang Zhen observed with a cold gaze, and once again asked the crowd: “Now that both of the imperial decrees are on display, what judgments does everyone have regarding this?”
Nobody dared to speak up, Zhu Yunxuan looked towards Liang Zhen, who is still able to keep his composure even during a time like this, with a complicated expression on his face as well as some particularly incomprehensible mixed feelings in his heart.
However, Liang Zhen did not look in his direction, and merely confronted the governing officials before him.
Zhang Nianling prostrated himself before Emperor Zhaoyang’s corpse, and lamented aloud in agitation: “His majesty ah! Throughout the three dynasties, this old fellow has diligently done my duties and pledged my loyalty to you! Thus, I have nothing to be ashamed of before the heavens! But now…… now I am unable to reserve the territory of Dayan for you anymore! I am not qualified to live on in this world, so why don’t I accompany you instead ah!”
Liang Zhen spoke with indifference: “Elder Zhang’s statement is rather overstepping the boundary, are you currently wishing misfortune upon the Nation of Dayan?”
This remark is truly a penetrating criticism, Zhang Nianling is angered to the point of vomiting out a mouth full of blood on the spot, causing the entire palace to be engulfed into chaos at once.
During the mess, an abrupt series of footsteps which is rapid as a torrential downpour sounded from outside. The imperial palace guards has sieged the Ganlin Palace inside and out, even the moving silhouettes as well as fire torches are visible through the blurred glazed windows inside the palace. The vague swishing sound of swords leaving their sheaths is also particularly fear-inducing.
Then, the general of the imperial guards enter the palace, swept a glance at the situation inside and request orders from Liang Zhen in a solemn manner: “Due the demise of the emperor, I feared that disorder will occur within the inner palace, so I’ve already placed an order to strengthen the patrols and guards within the palace, and now requesting for your instructions sir.”
The expressions of the crowd in the palace became extremely complicated at this moment, they all seems to have a vague recollection that during the time when Emperor Zhaoyang seriously ill, all the soldiers of entire imperial city even including the palace guards had been under unified orders of a domineering leader who has a different surname.
If he truly intends to conspire against the throne, he may as well just claim the throne for himself.
Zhang Nianling, who is already in an awkward predicament, became extra furious when he witnessed this and angrily rebuked: “You order them to siege Ganlin palace…… You…… are attempting to threaten me into submission! Don’t you dare to even think about it! Even if this old fellow were to die, I will never allow a traitorous rebel such as you to have your way!”
Liang Zhen’s eyes narrowed, the last trace of patience within his gaze finally exhausted itself.