12th year of Xiantong Era, Tang Empire.
The third day of the third month. Dragon Head-raising Day.
Prince An's Manor.
There were seven courtyards with numerous buildings in the manor, covering an era of a little more than one hectare. The houses in the manor were interconnected, with the attics lined with flying beams. Together, they made a beautiful picture. The rock garden set off the lake nicely, with every flower and tree lying in harmony.
Li Ye, the Heir Apparent as well as the only son of Prince An, was having his coming-of-age ceremony today.
For men, the coming-of-age ceremony was an indicator of one growing to adulthood. It was one of the most important ceremonies in life. Each subordinate officials, servants, and maids of Prince An's Manor was gathered in the central courtyard at the moment. They watched the prince on the high platform closely, amid the sound of rites and music.
They weren't the only ones in attendance. Due to his status as a child of the Imperial Clan, quite a number of princes, dukes, and nobles of Chang'an City had also come to watch the ceremony.
Li Ye, who everyone was focused on, wore a black robe, a high crown, and a broad belt. He was also carrying a sword and donning a pair of boots. He was born tall and straight with a grand forehead. Right now, he looked more heroic and extraordinary than usual.
However, there were traces of bitterness in Li Ye's eyes during the celebration. The official of the Court of the Imperial Clan in front of him, who presided over the ceremony and helped him put on his royal crown, looked indifferent.
The others in the courtyard, be it bureaucrats of the Court of the Imperial Clan or subordinate officials and servants of Prince An's Manor, didn't look excited either. Some of the princes, dukes, and nobles were even whispering and gossiping.
"It has been a long time since Prince An died, but the Court of the Imperial Clan hasn't allowed the Heir Apparent to inherit the Prince's title. Will they do it today?"
"When the Heir Apparent didn't inherit the Prince's title in the past, we could explain it as the Heir Apparent being too young. But he's having his coming-of-age ceremony today. If they still don't bestow him the title, he would have no hope left."
"I think it'll be suspended. The Heir Apparent's circumstances are unique. Based on the regulations, he has no hope of inheriting the title. We'll have to see what the Court of the Imperial Clan does next."
Hearing the discussion of the princes, dukes, and nobles, Li Ye couldn't help looking at the official of the Court of the Imperial Clan in front of him. He thought, "The day of my coming-of-age ceremony is the deadline for me to inherit my father's title. But the officials of the Court of Imperial Court didn't bring up this matter at all after coming here. Looks like I have zero hope of inheriting the title... But that's to be expected. A cripple who can't cultivate has no right to inherit the title."
Ever since Li Ye transmigrated here a few days ago, he had become clear of the rules of this world.
This was a cultivating world. The foundation of the imperial court of the Tang Empire was a team of cultivators in the Qi-refining Stage. Any officer with a rank was a cultivator.
This body, however, was a cripple happened to have no spiritual roots. He was a cripple who couldn't cultivate. A person who couldn't cultivate in this world was no different than an ant.
"The ceremony is complete." The official of the Court of Imperial Court crowned Li Ye and took two steps back before cupping his hands in obeisance. In a decidedly neutral voice, he said, "Congratulations, Heir Apparent."
"Thank you for your trouble." Li Ye returned the courtesy.
The official of the Court of the Imperial Clan paused but under everyone's watchful eyes, said no more. He slowly turned around and walked down the platform. With a flick of his long sleeve, he left the place with the ceremonial weaponry and bureaucrats without a second word. It was as if he didn't want to stay here for even another minute.
When the princes, dukes, and nobles saw this, they naturally knew what had happened and stood up one after another. Never mind offering Li Ye any congratulations, they didn't even greet him. One after another left with an impatient look, all while discussing the ceremony.
"I've long said that this child is a cripple with no spiritual root. How can he inherit Prince An's title?"
"Let's go, let's go. What's the point of talking so much about it? I've made such a trip for nothing."
"The famous Prince An had literary talent and martial arts that eclipses that of the Imperial Clan. This is truly a case of the father being as a great as a tiger and the son being as lowly as a dog!"
Li Ye stood on the platform, watching the official of the Court of the Imperial Clan leave. His expression didn't change much as he listened to the princes, dukes, and nobles gossip. He thought to himself. "When Father was alive, he performed numerous meritorious deeds and enjoyed great prestige. Be it princes, dukes, nobles, or court officials, all revered him. Now Father is gone and I haven't inherited his title..."
When the officials and servants of Prince An's Manor saw Li Ye walking down the platform, they saluted him and said perfunctorily, "Congratulations to the Heir Apparent for coming of age."
Their voices were small and scattered. They sounded so faint as if they couldn't muster even the slightest bit of energy.
Since Li Ye couldn't inherit Prince An's title, he might not be able to secure his status as his father's Heir Apparent.
Li Ye secretly shook his head but nevertheless waved his hand. "Bestow them the rewards."
Either way, Li Ye had come of age. Based on convention, the master should reward his staff and servants when there was something auspicious happening.
Everyone looked a little better, with someone even smiling. Their voices became much louder. "Thank you for your reward, Heir Apparent."
Li Ye passed through the crowd without looking sideways. He thought, "Since I can't inherit Father's title, the Court of the Imperial Clan will take this manor back. Since these people will have new masters in the future, they will naturally have no respect for me. However, no one will be unhappy in the face of rewards."
Walking through the verandah to the backyard, the nostalgic Li Ye felt a little melancholic. "Since I can't inherit the Prince's title, I'll be a commoner in the future. Without cultivation, I'm even more unlikely to become an official. Where and how will I live in the future are both a problem."
Li Ye smiled wryly and put the matter aside.
Of course, he didn't have to think much. He had life experience accumulated over the years, for this body of his had already experienced past lives.
Two days ago, Li Ye transmigrated from the earth and came across the twenty-year-old soul of his current body. He had once again reborn.
20 years later, Li Ye would become the last emperor of the Tang Empire and also a puppet emperor. There would be people controlling him and ordering his officials in his name. Finally, he was forced into giving up his throne and ended up setting himself on fire in the Black Tortoise Building.
"In five or six years, Huang Chao would be wreaking chaos. After the bastard, Huang Chao, failed his civil service examination many times, he ended up entering an Immortal's sect and Tao Arts. Later, he gathered a crowd to revolt and stormed Chang'an, causing chaos in the world, warlords to vie for power, and attempts to seize the throne. In that incident, when the Emperor of the Tang Empire died of illness and the children of the Imperial Clan were all killed or injured, "Li Ye" was discovered in the haunts of the common people and turned into a puppet emperor with no real power."
Li Ye couldn't help feeling melancholic after recalling the past life of his current body. "He climbed with the Black Tortoise Building with the Heir Apparentloom Seal of the Realm in hand to set himself on fire, only for his soul to meet my transmigration. Now our souls have merged..."
While he was mulling over this, a man and a woman walked toward him. Both were finely dressed.
When he saw them, Li Ye's eyes swiftly shifted from warmth to coldness.
The man looked about the same age as Li Ye. His looks weren't bad but he had a rather crafty air. He held a folding fan. It was Li Ye's paternal cousin brother, Li Yao. He had taken care of Li Ye from an early age and both of them shared a very deep affection.
The woman was in her twenties. She wore a red shirt and a skirt made of thin silk. Her flawless face was delicate and doll-like. Even though she was petite, she had all the necessary curves and her development was incredibly advanced. This was Duchess of Li, Wu You.
In Chang'an City, those who coveted Wu You's beauty were as common as carp crossing the river.
Both of them were cultivators in the Qi-refining Stage. Their cultivation was among the best in the younger generation in the Imperial Clan.
"Elder Brother Ye, don't lose heart. Even if you didn't inherit the Prince's title today, it doesn't mean you won't have a chance in the future. I'll go home and get my parents to help. They'll definitely help you inherit the title!" Wu You shook her delicate fist to cheer Li Ye up. Her obsidian-like pupils were crystal clear and full of inspiration.
Wu You was a family friend as well as a close friend of Li Ye. When they were children, she used to follow him around. Even though her unrivaled talent made her a genius in everyone's eyes, she never looked down on him.
Li Ye smiled and said to Wu You, "You sure do have a lot of schemes."
"Don't feel discouraged, Younger Brother Ye. Duchess of Li is right. It's not as if you won't have a chance in the future if you don't inherit the Prince's title today." Li Yao used his folding fan to pat Li Ye's chest. He comforted Li Ye, saying, "I'll also persuade my father to help you get the title when I go back."
Li Ye was sincere to Wu You, but he now had different feelings for Li Yao.
Li Ye had been reborn. Many people and things that he didn't see clearly at this point of his life in his previous life were now as clear as day in his heart.
Li Yao might appear doting of Li Ye like a virtuous older brother, but the reality was that he was deeply cunning. His facade concealed his true nature. He had been coveting Li Ye's title of Prince An for a long time on the basis of his tremendous gift in cultivation.
In the past, Li Ye failed to inherit the title. Later, he was stripped of his position as the Heir Apparent. The Court of the Imperial Clan would eventually give both the title and manor of Prince An to Li Yao.
Naturally, the title of Prince An didn't just fall on Li Yao's lap. It was something that he had planned for a long time.
Prince An performed outstanding feats and rendered meritorious service to the country. Even if Li Ye was without cultivation, it was impossible that he couldn't inherit the title of Prince An or be demoted from the Heir Apparent to a commoner. More importantly, the title wouldn't fall into the hands of Li Yao, his cousin.
Everything was the result of Li Yao and his father, Duke of Xing, colluding with the Court of the Imperial Clan to scheme against Li Ye.
Suddenly, Li Ye remembered something. "Shouldn't Li Yao bring that up when he comes here this time?"
Sure enough, Li Yao continued, "However, the reason you can't inherit the title is that you can't cultivate, Young Brother Ye. In the Tang Empire, a person without cultivation can't be an official. It's truly difficult for you to inherit the title..."
Li Yao then took a look at Li Ye. He pretended to look awkward.
"Li Yao, what do you mean by those words? Are you saying Elder Brother Ye stands no chance of inheriting the Prince's title? Do you think I won't hit you?!" Wu You's delicate brows knotted as she glared at Li Yao. She looked like an angry kitten. "It's one thing if you don't help. How dare you be so sarcastic!"
Li Yao looked embarrassed after Wu You scolded him. He also didn't dare to reply. Every eminent young man in Chang'an knew Duchess of Li was most protective of Li Ye. She wouldn't tolerate anyone showing him disrespect. "Duchess of Li, that's not what I mean..."
Li Ye secretly sneered. He knew what Li Yao wanted to say next but it wasn't appropriate for him to point it out. He tugged at the furious Wu You and asked Li Yao, "Otherwise what? Why don't you teach me?"
Li Yao pretentiously heaved a sigh. "Tai Xuan Summit of the Cloud-submerged Mountain. Have you heard of it, Younger Brother Ye?"
"Tai Xuan Summit? Rumor has it that the Heavenly Master of the current dynasty, Yuan Tiangang, once saw the view from the top of the Tai Xuan Summit. Enlightened, he proceeded to write a Taoist scripture. The scripture contained the Chance, Qi, and Fate of Taoism," Li Ye answered.
Li Yao nodded solemnly. "Heavenly Master Yuan is in the Perfected Immortal Realm. Naturally, the scripture that he leaves behind is a force to be reckoned with. If you can comprehend this scripture and obtain the blessing of the fate inside, perhaps you'll be able to grow spiritual roots and become a cultivator!"
As if worried that Li Ye wouldn't be tempted, Li Yao added patiently, "If you can become a cultivator, build your cultivation, break through the Qi-refining Stage, and become an expert, and then it'd be a case of the carp leaping through the dragon's gate! The Court of the Imperial Clan will definitely give you the title of Prince An!"