The drug made Emperor Chu feel ecstatic. With the help of the pills, he had been enjoying himself for several days, feeling great and thinking that he was becoming stronger with age, like an old horse still capable of great feats, with ambitions reaching far and wide.
Under the influence of the pills, he became addicted to taking them and could not free himself, even becoming somewhat neglectful of his duties in court. Every day, his mind was preoccupied with indulging in pleasure and entertainment, and with his personal affairs.
When Eunuch Shen brought over the government affairs for him to handle, the emperor casually flipped through them and found that they were all about trivial matters, causing him to lose even more patience. He didn’t even want to bother marking them as “read.”
Eunuch Shen stood respectfully at the side, grinding ink for him. Emperor Chu glanced at him and said, “You can help me by marking all these memorials as read.”
Eunuch Shen obediently agreed to do it for him.
The emperor then asked, “Where is Yan Yan?”
Eunuch Shen replied, “Your Majesty, Imperial concubine is with the ninth prince.”
The emperor nodded and left.
After he left, Eunuch Shen stood in front of his seat without sitting down. He piled up the documents and looked at the first one on top, which happened to be from the prime minister. He quickly scanned it, and a smile appeared on his lips, the meaning unclear.
The writing on it was all about recent subtle criticisms and suggestions regarding Emperor Chu’s actions. Even though the language was very polite and careful not to offend the emperor’s authority, the emperor’s temper was as changeable as the weather and he could not tolerate others’ opinions. Therefore, Emperor Chu was somewhat annoyed.
Wei Yunping’s turn was also approaching.
Eunuch Shen dipped the brush in red ink and carefully picked the tip on the inkstone before using cinnabar to mark it as “read.”
Meanwhile, Shen Fengyue was enjoying family time with the ninth prince.
Since he was recognized as Imperial Concubine’s son, Chu Xi’s status had risen rapidly, and no one dared to underestimate him anymore. People thought that with the unexpected death of the Crown Prince and with the high favor of the Imperial Concubine Yan, the future crown prince might be this person.
Unconsciously, their attitude became more respectful, and they dared not be negligent.
Chu Xi, the young man who was mature beyond his age, was aware of their little careful thoughts but only chuckled. His attitude remained the same, but his demeanor was quite different from before.
“Xi’er, have you not been taking care of yourself? You look thinner lately. The flesh on both sides of your cheeks has reduced, leaving only those bright and clear eyes.”
He was wearing a greenish-blue robe with a few tall bamboo trees specially embroidered on the front. He had a jade belt tied around his forehead, making him look even more radiant.
Chu Xi shook his head, saying that boys naturally grow taller and lose weight.
“Mother Concubine is a woman, so naturally she wouldn’t know.”
Shen Fengyue, “…” Your mother concubine is actually a man, you know?
Shen Fengyue changed the topic, “Is the school dismissed early today?”
Every day, Chu Xi would come early to pay his respects to him, rain or shine, like a filial son who never missed a day. But Shen Fengyue didn’t want him to come so early. First, he felt sorry for the young child who had to come so early just to pay his respects, and he was worried that he couldn’t handle the workload at school. Second, it was a personal reason: Shen Fengyue couldn’t wake up that early.
He had advised Chu Xi several times to stop coming so early every day, but it took a lot of persuasions to convince him to give up coming every day. Even so, this silly child still came to see him right after school.
He hummed and said, “Today the teacher gave us a writing assignment, and after I finished it quickly, the teacher thought it was good and let me leave early. Fortunately, I still have the paper with me,” he paused and looked at Shen Fengyue, “Would Your Majesty like to take a look?”
His eyes were filled with hope as he took out the paper, and how could Shen Fengyue refuse?
Looking at the article, the most stunning thing was the neat handwriting throughout the entire piece. The strokes were steady and the writing was clear-cut, without any dragging or hesitation.
“Your handwriting is good, very steady,” praised Shen Fengyue. Immediately, joy filled his heart, and it overflowed in his eyes, unable to be concealed.
Then, looking at the content, the teacher asked about “rules and laws,” and Chu Xi wrote fluently and clearly, elaborating on his own understanding of rules and laws in detail.
After reading it, he said, “Very good. But I have one question.”
Shen Fengyue said, “If there are hidden circumstances, can mercy be given beyond the law? Does the law allow for compassion?”
Chu Xi placed his hands on his thighs, and his right hand unconsciously tapped slowly and rhythmically. This was his usual way of thinking. He thought for a while before focusing his attention to answer Shen Fengyue’s question seriously. “In my opinion, without rules, there can be no order. If everyone follows their own emotions, how can the law be implemented? Where is the authority of the law?”
Shen Fengyue listened and his expression was somewhat dazed. He replied softly and casually.
“Mother?” Chu Xi noticed his strangeness.
Shen Fengyue shook his head, his tone gentle. “Chu Xi, you’re very talented.”
Chuxi then told him about the people and things he had encountered while studying, as well as interesting anecdotes he had heard. Good or bad, he talked about them one by one. He was usually a person of few words, only speaking more when he saw Shen Fengyue. Chu Xi was like a little sparrow chattering non-stop, while Shen Fengyue listened attentively, nodding and smiling from time to time, not neglecting him even for a moment because of his age.
The atmosphere between “mother and son” was harmonious and cheerful, but it was broken by the arrival of Emperor Chu.
Chu Xi was reciting his favorite verses in front of Shen Fengyue. When Emperor Chu arrived, Shen Fengyue raised his hand to signal him to stop and then stood up to greet him, “Your Majesty, I pay my respects.”
“This son greets his father the Emperor.” Chu Xi also followed to pay his respects.
Emperor Chu smiled and asked them to rise, praised Chu Xi for a few words, and then signaled him to step back. Chu Xi did not want to leave but hindered by the Emperor’s order, he had to reluctantly leave and pursed his lips to bid farewell to Shen Fengyue, “Mother Concubine, this son will leave first.”
Shen Fengyue nodded, “Tomorrow I will have someone prepare your favorite coconut cake.”
Chu Xi left, and Shen Fengyue watched his figure go away, realizing that he had to face Emperor Chu again and couldn’t help but sigh. He had too much fun with Chu Xi, so it was even more frustrating to be with Emperor Chu.
“You mother and son have a deep affection,” Emperor Chu said, then turned the topic, “We have obtained some rare things in the Beast Garden, how about I take Yan Yan to have a look?”
Shen Fengyue couldn’t say anything, so he can only agree.
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