Upon learning of the death of Imperial Astronomer, Mr. Miao, the officials from the Ministry of Rites left in a hurry with unreadable expressions.
The chief eunuch motioned for Xu Liangshou to follow him into the room. He sat down and said with a dark expression, "Do you know what to do next?"
Xu Liangshou said respectfully, "Please give me some pointers, sir."
The chief eunuch tapped the table lightly and said, "We don't know how to read the stars. We will listen to you."
Xu Liangshou said after a brief moment of silence, "Sir, do you really want me to write it?"
The chief eunuch was already very impatient, and he shouted, "What are you waiting for? Get this done quickly!"
Xu Liangshou stopped his prevarication and went to the desk and wrote down eight words.
"The dark moon invades, unrest befalls the country!"
Many years ago, the Tang Imperial Astronomer noticed that the starry night had darkened and wrote eight words. Many years later, the moon appeared in the night sky. The officials in the Imperial Observatory did not even look at it before writing another set of eight words.
The chief eunuch's expression darkened so much that it felt as if it was about to rain. His eyes flamed angrily as he gritted his teeth and said, "Lord Xu, what do you mean by this?"
Xu Liangshou said calmly, "I am just the deputy of the Imperial Observatory. After His Honor passed, I have taken his position according to the laws of the Tang Empire. We do not need to discuss this with the court. Since you want me to write, I have done so. How is this inappropriate?"
The chief eunuch laughed in anger. He laughed dryly, pointing at Xu Liangshou, "You're good, Lord Xu."
Xu Liangshou looked up sternly and knocked the eunuch's thin fingers away. He yelled, "I called you sir and asked for pointers. I spoke to you humbly to show my respect to the nobles in the palace! I am a fourth-grade official, and you are just a eunuch. How dare you be so disrespectful!"
"How dare you! Such impudence!" The chief eunuch shook in anger. "Do you want to die?"
Xu Liangshou's expression was cold as he yelled, "Die? Do you really think the laws of the Tang Empire are for show? Tell the noble backing you that I am not Mr. Miao. I don't have naughty disciples who have accidentally killed someone in a street brawl and neither do I have corrupt relatives! I am all alone! It's not that easy to kill me! Get out of here!"
With that, he slapped the eunuch forcefully. The slap rang in the air.
The Tang Empire Imperial Center Administration managed cultivators on behalf of the imperial court. To the ordinary folk or ordinary officials, this center was very mysterious.
However, the yamen in the Imperial Center Administration was not mysterious, but rather remote. It was located in a small building four miles east of the Vermilion Bird Avenue across the garden of the military department.
Judging by the skies, it did not look like it was going to rain again in a short period of time after the incessant rain stopped. However, there was a yellow paper umbrella on the desk found on the third floor of the Imperial Center Administration. The surface of the umbrella was slightly wet.
He Mingchi took a piece of white silk cloth and carefully and slowly wiped the water off the umbrella's surface. It was as if he did not see the sweat on Zhuge Wuren's forehead opposite him.
Zhuge Wuren was the chief official of the Tang Empire Imperial Center Administration. Everyone knew he was loyal to the Empress. When the new Emperor ascended to the throne, his position naturally became precarious.
"As the saying goes, with every Emperor, comes a change in his officials. Lord Zhuge should already know about the change in the situation. Why have you still made so much effort? Unless you wish to overthrow the edict? That would be most unwise."
He Mingchi put the silk handkerchief into his sleeve, looked up, as he calmly spoke.
Zhuge Wuren looked at the young man across him who was dressed in Taoist uniform. The sweat on his forehead grew. He had never imagined that the other man would know about where he had gone over the last few days.
He and He Mingchi were actually very familiar with each other. In the last few years, He Mingchi had been responsible for cooperating with him as the Southern Gate Temple provided the most backing to the Imperial Center Administration. He had always respected He Mingchi, but that respect was mostly for his sect and his teacher, who was the Nation Master. He only discovered that he was wrong today.
He Mingchi himself, was most worthy of respect.
"What exactly does the Abbey Dean He wish to say? I just visited some old friends and had tea and chatted with them. I cannot accept that you would want to frame me for overthrowing the edict of the deceased Emperor."
Zhuge Wuren's voice was rather hoarse.
His voice had already become hoarse when He Mingchi strode into the Imperial Center Administration and he had not been notified. He knew that no matter what he said, there would be no one to hear it.
"The deceased Emperor had agreed with the Empress' suggestion to make you the director of the Imperial Center Administration because you are a regular person. You will not side with the cultivators and do not feel awe for cultivators like others. This was an advantage and also a fatal flaw."
He Mingchi said, "Over the years, there are no cultivators in the Imperial Center Administration who are truly in your control. Once you lose your authority, you will not be able to command them."
Zhuge Wuren felt that he was sitting in front of a poisonous asp. He said, "I have never thought that the Southern Gate Temple had penetrated so deeply into the Imperial Center Administration. But do not forget, that I am still the director and while those people did not dare to stop you from coming to see me, they do not dare to help you to kill me either."
He Mingchi looked at him with pity and said, "I am a cultivator. While I might not be as powerful as Ning Que and Chen Pipi, do you think I would need help to kill an ordinary person?"
Zhuge Wuren shouted, "I don't believe that you'd dare to kill an officer of the imperial court!"
He Mingchi said, "I do not dare to do so, but Lord Zhuge, do remember that the new Emperor has taken the throne. He can take your office away from you with just a simple edict. What will you be left with then?"
Sweat beaded on Zhuge Wuren's forehead as he said, "In that case, what are you all waiting for?"
"It would not look good to the officials in the imperial court if the Emperor starts getting rid of the Empress' loyal dogs right after he starts his reign. You have been in charge of the Imperial Center Administration for many years, and I trust that you hold many secrets in your hands and possess unknown power. His Majesty does not wish for unnecessary losses just because of warring loyalties amongst his subjects."
He Mingchi looked at him with a smile and said, "So His Majesty wants you to resign."
Zhuge Wuren stared at him mockingly and said, "Do you think I would be so stupid to do that?"
"This has nothing to do with stupidity, only with the current situation. Even if you still have trump cards not under our control, we have gathered control of the general situation. You cannot change anything now."
He Mingchi straightened his expression and said, "Lord Zhuge suffered from a serious illness because of his great grief for the Emperor's death. He has sincerely asked to resign. His Majesty and the Princess would take into account your hard work and allow you to remain in Chang'an. If you want His Majesty to take your office forcefully, then you will be sent to serve in the counties."
Zhuge Wuren's hands trembled when he heard that.
"It seems that Lord Zhuge knows the difference between the two. Indeed, you have followed the Empress all your life and have done many shameful deeds. You ordered cultivators around like they were pigs and dogs and have offended many sects. Without the imperial court's backing, you will die once you leave Chang'an."
With that, He Mingchi picked up his yellow oil-paper umbrella and stuffed it under his arm and walked out of the Imperial Center Administration.
There was no sound of wind and rain outside the temple tonight, but Li Yu was unused to it and felt a little restless. She still could not settle down after reading a few memorials to the throne; she did not even read the words on the memorials clearly.
Now that her brother had ascended the throne as Emperor, in principle, her position as governor should have been invalidated. However, both the new Emperor and the officials of the two sects in court have all asked her to continue her governance.
The Emperor had asked her to continue correcting the memorials to the throne because he believed in his royal sister's administrative abilities. It was his way of expressing gratitude and to show that they were close. The officials who supported the Princess insisted on this because they did not really trust in the Emperor's abilities. And who knew what the Empress' supporters were plotting?
Li Yu flipped through the thick memorial to the throne. Suddenly, her fingers froze slightly, and her facial expression became grave because she had seen Zhuge Wuren's resignation letter at the bottom of the memorials' pile.
Candlelight shone on the desk and screen as well as on her face tinted with uncertainty. Looking at the resignation of the Queen's loyal dog, she recalled many things that had happened in the court recently.
Since the new Emperor took over the throne, Chang'an city seemed to be stable. However, undercurrents flowed beneath the surface. Ministers and generals who remained loyal to the Queen often communicated privately about matters that one could easily guess even without asking.
There was also a big dispute during court. The palace was determined to change the year as soon as possible to confirm the ascension of the new Emperor. The Empress' faction used the excuse that the deceased Emperor's remains had yet to return and the fact that the Empress was still in the Wilderness to request for the change to be postponed until the deceased Emperor was buried.
Filial piety was sufficient reason, and neither Li Yu nor the Emperor could stop it. They could only agree with the suggestions of the court officials and send a team toward Helan City to welcome the coffin when the rain ceased.
Li Yu knew very well the importance of the change of the year to the throne. This was the first large event since the new Emperor's reign. However, they were forced to stop before anything was done. She guessed that her younger brother would be very angry, but did not expect that he would act without her knowing.
She carefully examined Zhuge Wuren's resignation by the candlelight. She wanted to see if she could see more details through the wording in the letter, but did not find anything.
Since the coffin of the deceased Emperor had not yet returned, the newly throned Emperor did not move into the main hall, but lived in the side hall as he had in previous years. However, the side hall was much more lively and lavish than before.
The palace was suddenly silent tonight. Other than the two most trusted eunuchs who guarded the doors, there was no one else but the two siblings in the quiet hall.
"I heard father talk about what the dean had said then, 'Governing a large country is like frying small fish. Don't turn it over casually, let things happen naturally, act cautiously, and never be impatient.'"
Li Yu looked at her younger brother and said softly, "You are now the Emperor of the Tang Empire. You have to act as the situation calls. Those small fries cannot touch you. Why did you rush to act?"
Li Huiyuan said with a smile, " I thought it was something else that had made my royal sister so nervous and cautious. So it was only a letter of resignation. Yes, I sent someone to make Zhuge Wuren resign. Everyone in the Tang Empire knows that that sinister villain is a loyal dog of that woman. I don't want to see that hateful face again in the palace."
Li Yu looked at his expression and knew that he had not taken her words to heart. She said gravely, "You need to know that Chang'an city cannot be breached from the outside. The only danger is from the inside. Your Majesty, you are now equal to Chang'an city. As long as you don't mess with yourself, you can live forever."
Li Huiyuan bowed his head and remained silent for a long while when he heard this.
Then he looked up at Li Yu and said, "I understand this, but just as my royal sister had said, the danger to Chang'an is within it. Within two days of the reading of the edict, the Minister of Rites went to the Southern Gate Temple. Zhuge Wuren went to the Academy. Do you not know what they want to do?"
Li Yu was silent. She was not worried about the Southern Gate Temple. No one would know what happened that night, especially with the passing of Nation Master Li Qingshan. However, the Academy had not made its stand, which was what made her truly uneasy.
The Academy had shut its doors. The loyal subjects of the Empress could not enter, and even the messengers she sent only saw the regular staff of the Academy. They did not even manage to meet with a single professor.
If it was because of the death of the Headmaster, the closure of the Academy was understandable. But what were those professors doing? What were those people on the second floor of the Academy who were qualified to influence the court doing?
"Royal Sister, those people would not just let the matter rest. They would never acknowledge that father chose me to succeed him. If we treat them benevolently, these heartless people would only think that we are weak!"
Li Huiyuan looked at his sister and said viciously.
Li Yu's heart trembled when she heard that. In fact, until this moment, Li Huiyuan had really thought that it was his name on the edict. He did not know what she had done.
Li Huiyuan's self-righteousness was like a form of mocking to her. It mocked her. She suddenly felt weary and did not wish to continue the topic. She suddenly thought of the news she heard when walking around the palace and said with a slight frown, "What happened at the Imperial Observatory?"
Li Huiyuan froze slightly at the question and did not know how to answer.
Li Yu knew that what she had heard was true when she saw that. She scolded sternly, "Lord Miao Kechi had always been righteous and maintained a good reputation in court. How can you coerce an official to force him to death? Do you wish for the officials to turn against you?"
Li Huiyuan bowed his head and remained silent for a long time, saying, "I was indeed wrong in this."
Li Yu knew that her younger brother was stubborn, and did not expect him to admit to his mistakes so quickly. She could not help but be shocked. However, before she could reply, Li Huiyuan looked up.
He said calmly and firmly, "But I will not regret it, because I wanted him to die."
Li Yu looked at him stupefied and asked, "Why? This...why?"
"Miao Kechi had written those damned words back then and forced you to marry far away! I will never forget that night when you knelt before father's palace. And I will never forget the tears you shed the night before you got married."
Li Huiyuan looked at his sister and said coldly, "...That's why he had to die."