Chapter 907: Treacherous Eunuchs
Translator: Henyee Translations Editor: Henyee Translations
Wei Song and Gu Lun used to be close friends. Although one of them was a civil official and the other a military officer, they were both faithful men who were appreciated by the former Emperor.
“Back then, General Gu and I had seven or eight colleagues that we socialized with on a regular basis. Our usual gathering spot was either my home or the Gu family. The Dragon King might not remember it, but I used to be a regular visitor of the Gu mansion.
As he recalled the past, Wei Song seemed composed and calm, as if this hasty escape attempt had just been a coincidence. He was not afraid of the Dragon King, but he still couldn’t help but put a slightly subservient look on, intending to influence this cold young man before him.
Gu Shenwei indeed didn’t remember it at all. His father and elder brothers had always treated him as a child up until the day they had been killed. And they had never allowed him to participate in those adult social activities. But he didn’t care back then, and the only thing he paid attention to was whether the guests had brought any kids of his age.
“General Gu was the former Emperor’s most trusted man. He was allowed to enter the palace with a saber and take part in confidential consultations. General Gu was the only one who enjoyed this privilege. He was a man of integrity and honesty, and he quarreled with the former Emperor very often. Surprisingly, he won most of those arguments. To be honest, the other colleagues and I were fairly jealous.”
In Gu Shenwei’s memory, his father was a man of few words. He didn’t expect that his father would display a completely different personality in the Imperial Court. He started picturing a scene: his father was arguing with the former Emperor, and Wei Song and the others were adding fuel to the argument in tones of admiration and excitement. The atmosphere was animated and harmonious, and they seemed like a group of friends instead of an emperor and his subordinate officials.
He suddenly recalled Duodun. This Norland prince also used to have a group of companions around him. Though these companions’ military ranks were not very high, their statuses were different from the others around him. The former Emperor had once been held hostage in the Norland for a decade along with Gu Shenwei’s father and had probably developed some of the prairie men’s habits.
Wei Song found that the look on the Dragon King’s face had miraculously softened, so he continued. “Not only did General Gu have excellent kung fu skills, but he also had great insight-”
Gu Shenwei raised his hand and stopped Wei Song from talking any further. He was not in the mood for Wei Song’s nostalgic stories, and he wouldn’t be sympathetic to him because of them either. “I just want to know why my father was killed.”
“Alas. It was all because of Yan Qin. He’s worked in the palace for a very long time and has served three Emperors. For some reason, he managed to find favor with all three Emperors. The former Emperor hated treacherous officials, but he still failed to see through all of his actions. Gradually, Yan Qin became more and more favored. General Gu believed that he had a responsibility to advise the former Emperor to stay away from eunuchs, and because of this, he publicly reprimanded Yan Qin many times. As his friends, we tried to persuade him to make a concession and let His Majesty deal with those issues himself, but General Gu only resorted to more radical approaches. He gathered a group of scholars and had them compile a book which documented the evil deeds of all the previous treacherous eunuchs. And then he gave the book to the former Emperor as a gift. The former Emperor didn’t get angry. Instead, he had that book copied and sent a duplicate to everyone in the palace. He ordered that all the eunuchs had to read through it. Even those who couldn’t read must have someone else read it to them.”
This was yet another side of his father that Gu Shenwei wasn’t familiar with, but it was not necessary for Wei Song to lie about this.
Ever since he had built his army, Gu Shenwei had made concessions with different forces many times, even with Golden Roc Castle. He hated to admit it, but his father’s methods were too direct, even though his intentions were good. He had offended his enemies without eradicating them, which was a taboo in all forms of strife. “And Yan Qin didn’t lose favor with the Emperor?”
Wei Song sighed. “Yan Qin is a smart person. He knew that he couldn’t fight back against General Gu head-on, so during that period, he acted humbly. Not only did he memorize the entire book detailing the treachery of eunuchs, but he even often quoted examples from it in front of the former Emperor and General Gu. And he also read the book and explained it to the young eunuchs in the palace. Thus, the former Emperor appreciated him more, and even General Gu thought that he had changed.”
Although these things happened in the past, they still made Gu Shenwei shiver when he heard them. Yan Qin’s tactics sounded very similar to his own methods of seeking revenge. If he were Yan Qin, he would also have learned the whole book by heart. To cheat the Emperor was part of the reason, but the most important part was to make sure that the fire of hatred in his heart wouldn’t go out.
There were many cases of this around him: Shangguan Fei, Shangguan Hong, and Old Man Mu. Every time any one of these three people humbled themselves and fawned on him, Gu Shenwei would become a bit more vigilant and remind himself that these people were not trustworthy.
Servants regarded flattering others and enduring humiliations as investments, and they kept a count of them, waiting for equivalent rewards. If there was no reward or if the reward failed to satisfy them, then the seed of betrayal would take root and sprout in their hearts. Gu Shenwei still vividly remembered what Zhang Ji had taught him. He had been calculating the reward that he was able to offer his subordinates this entire time so as to prevent potential major misjudgement.
Apparently, at that time, Gu Lun didn’t know this. He trusted his enemy and thought that they didn’t owe each other anything and that they could happily live in peace ever after.
“Then the former Emperor died all of a sudden,” Wei Song continued. “And he didn’t have enough time to designate a Minister-regent, otherwise… Alas. In a word, the situation in the Imperial Court changed radically overnight. The Empress, who is the current Empress Dowager, cooperated with Yan Qin. They soon took control of the palace, took the royal seal, and then designated a couple of old officials to assist the young Emperor. General Gu was not among them.”
But Gu Lun didn’t yield immediately. Instead, he consulted with some of his close friends and decided to mount a coup in order to force the Empress and Yan Qin out of power. Wei Song shook his head and sighed, “It was too late. By the time they came up with this idea, it was already five days after the former Emperor’s death, and there were several ministers wavering, too. Before the plan could even take shape, the Empress’ uncle, Pang Ning, had led his army into the capital and been named the General of Hussars and put in charge of the security of the capital as well as of the royal palace. Since then, the overall situation was set, and there was nothing anybody could do anymore.”
The clique once favored by the former Emperor had fallen apart. Wei Song didn’t try to avoid talking about this. “This is how the Imperial Court operates. The Dragon King has been to the Royal Court, so I guess that you’re familiar with this kind of thing. General Gu and a couple of his retired colleagues, as well as me and the others, were all banished from the capital.”
Yan Qin didn’t take revenge on them immediately. Those retired officials all received decent treatment, and those who were assigned to provincial cities were promoted instead of being demoted. In a word, it seemed as if he wanted to scramble for power in a peaceful way.
“General Gu was still worried, so he decided to take all of his family members to the Western Regions. I once tried to persuade him otherwise. I said that, maybe, the young Emperor would need us, but General Gu had already made up his mind. Because of this, he even disowned some of his relatives. Both of your sister-in-laws decided to return to their own families and neither followed your father to the Western Regions.”
Gu Shenwei still had a vague memory of this event. He didn’t remember his sister-in-laws’ looks. He only remembered that there seemed to have been an intense quarrel between his eldest brother and his father.
A year after the Gu family moved to the Western Regions, the political situation in the Imperial Court had stabilized and the Middle Assistant Minister Yan Qin had started taking revenge upon his enemies. He had never forgotten the humiliation that he had suffered.
Both the retired officials and those assigned to provincial cities were framed for all kinds of crimes. They were imprisoned and tortured. It was at that time that Wei Song yielded to the eunuch. “The Wei family is a large family. I could think of over a hundred family members. Besides, I always held the thought of swallowing the humiliation so as to avenge our sufferings some day. I know that this sounds ridiculous, and that Dragon King won’t believe it, but I did think so at that time.”
Yan Qin didn’t forgive Wei Song immediately, but he did assign him to be the Governor of Jade City, which was synonymous with exile for a Central Plainsman.
Wei Song had lived in horror since then. Though he was thousands of miles away from the capital, he still didn’t dare meet any of his old friends, and he even decided to break off his son’s engagement.
Wei Lingmiao had followed his father to the Western Regions. He volunteered to explain to the Meng family. But unexpectedly, with the help of the Meng family, he got in touch with Golden Roc Castle and found that it was totally unnecessary to break off the engagement as the Gu family would soon be eliminated.
“I really didn’t expect that Lingmiao would do that kind of thing… ” Wei Song appeared aggrieved. Back then, when they were in Xiaoyao Lake, Wei Song had had the same look as now when he was talking about his son. But in the letter to his cousin, he didn’t mention his son’s evil deeds at all. It was only full of hatred towards the Dragon King.
Wei Song had known that the Gu family was in dire danger of being massacred, but he hadn’t warned them. Instead, he had taken advantage of this opportunity to get closer to the envoy sent by Yan Qin. “Yan Di, also named Yan Guansheng, is Yan Qin’s adopted son. He knew all of the members of the Gu family, and so he was assigned to hire the Golden Roc killers. I offered him some help. As a reward, Yan Qin no longer regarded me as an enemy.”
“Did Yan Qin kill all of the family members of all his previous political enemies?”
“No. Just the Gu family. He hated General Gu the most. Rumors say that even today, he still quotes the words from the book about treacherous eunuchs very often, claiming that that was the biggest humiliation that he has ever suffered.”
“Zhang You was sent here by Yan Qin. He knows that I’m General Gu’s son, but he still tried to ‘save’ me. I don’t know why.”
“Neither do I.” Wei Song contemplated it for a while, as if he were the Dragon King’s advisor. “Yan Qin always seeks revenge for even the smallest grievance. By no means would he suddenly become merciful. There must be something behind this, but I can’t think of what at the moment. I think that Zhang You is also not an insider. He received an order and deliberately called off the plan at a crucial moment so that Dragon King would owe him a favor. Both the Unique King and I were used.”
Gu Shenwei believed he had gotten all the relevant information that he needed. If he kept asking, all he would get would merely be some pointless details, so he pulled out the Five Peaks Saber.
Wei Song felt that he should have looked at the Dragon King, but he couldn’t move his eyes away from that sharp, long saber. “The Dragon King has every reason to kill me, but please think about this – I’m still useful to you. The Dragon King’s biggest enemy is not me, but rather Yan Qin. He’s hiding in the Imperial Court, outside of which are several hundred thousand troops, and inside of which are hundreds, even thousands if kung fu experts. The Dragon King can’t just charge into the capital. You need someone to assist you from the inside. Although I took Yan Qin’s side, I still hate him. I just didn’t know of the right way to take revenge on him, but now that the Dragon King is here… Of course, Prince Xiao’s status is higher than mine, but he knows that you’re just seeking revenge, so he probably won’t help you. Think about it, Dragon King. Think about it carefully. If you kill me, you will get nothing, and your enemy might even become vigilant because of this. Yan Qin wants to use you, which is a golden opportunity to get your revenge. Don’t alert him… ”
Wei Song’s words were very reasonable. More importantly, Wei Song still had some relations with others, which meant that it was not safe to kill him right now.
Gu Shenwei grabbed Wei Song’s forearm and dragged him outside of the tent. The snow outside had become even more crystal clear. The shimmering glints could almost make someone forget about the cold weather.
Wei Song looked at the Dragon King in perplexity, hoping to find a hint in the cold look on his face. “I’m still useful… ”
“I, the son of the Gu family, Chief of the Dragons, King of the Five Peaks,” Gu Shenwei said solemnly, “hereby exculpate you of your sins. You shall suffer no further.”
Wei Song felt greatly relieved. He was just about to open his mouth and say something when his head fell to the ground, his body still standing there. Blood gushed out, splashing onto the Dragon King as well as the clean snowy ground.
There was a red patch amid the boundless white. This was Gu Shenwei’s hatred. Chu Nanping walked out from behind a tent. He was the only witness.