Chapter 460 – Seizing power (1)
It wasn’t a good thing for the court officials to be too unified. Because of this, Zhao Zhe didn’t sleep well for several nights. He tried to think of ways that would create conflicts between the officials in the Six Ministries and cause them to split into different groups.
The recent defeat at the borderlands was also quite problematic for him. Clearly, it should have been easy for Great Song’s army to defeat Yuzhen. Why had they lost at the last juncture? The military report sent by the border station hadn’t clearly described the situation. The report only listed out the number of soldiers that had died or were injured and requested for additional reinforcement troops and army provisions.
As for the important subordinates that were loyal to Zhao Zhe and placed in the army, they had all inexplicably died in battle.
In the following days, the imperial harem was plagued by disaster after disaster. There had been several almost successful attempts on Erxin’s life. Furious, the emperor ordered the death of many people in the palace. While the empress unsuccessfully tried to compete for the emperor’s favor, she somehow accidentally ate saffron. It wasn’t known how she could have drunk more than half a bowl of saffron soup without noticing. However, once she found out, she went crazy. Not even caring about the palace’s curfew, she returned to her maiden home and broke into hysterical sobbing.
(T/N: Saffron can stimulate uterine contractions if too much is eaten and cause miscarriage.)
Zhao Zhe was already preoccupied with a basket of troublesome work issues. And yet, the empress had been unable to see the larger issues and dared to return to her maiden home. Was the empress someone that could casually return to her maiden home? Wasn’t this asking the entire world to laugh at her conduct?
And so, since Zhao Zhe didn’t come to bring Shen Youqing back to the palace, the Shen Clan was in a very awkward situation.
Shen Youqing had lost her unborn child, and then, she had accidentally drunk saffron soup. She felt that the possibility of her giving birth to a heir was absolutely hopeless. How could she not feel horribly wronged? It had always been her bullying other people. She would have never expected that there would be a day when someone would bully her and to such an extent too. And so, how could she take this lying down? However, the emperor favored Erxin over her. Even when she knelt down outside Zichen Hall and tearfully complained, the emperor hadn’t been moved. It was only because she was out of other options that she returned to her maiden home in order to pressure the emperor.
However, she didn’t know that the emperor was already exhausted by the plague of political matters. A clever woman would avoid doing anything problematic during this time. She didn’t have to silently support him by bringing over tea or sending over other beverages, but she absolutely couldn’t cause trouble at this time. Since Shen Youqing hadn’t paid attention, she ended up jumping into the trap that someone had dug for her.
If she returned home, what was the value of her status as the empress in the imperial harem?
During the next court session, Grand Secretary Shen offered words of advice; don’t abandon the wife that had suffered hardship with you for a new woman once you obtain success. Before Grand Secretary Shen could continue further, next to him, the Minister of Justice presented a petition to emperor. The petition accused Grand Secretary Shen of profligacy, loitering in brothels during his work hours, accepting bribes, and exchanging numerous secret letters.
Grand Secretary Shen was the father-in-law of the reigning emperor. It was shocking that he would be accused of such things. Not only was this humiliating for the members of Shen Clan, it was humiliating for the emperor too. With a grave expression, the emperor said a few word of rebuke before ordering him to leave the imperial court and go home.
It was an extremely humiliating thing for a court official to be dismissed early and ordered to return home. Grand Secretary Shen was advanced in age. Although he had become less respectable in his old age, he still remembered the importance of moral integrity, so his breath stopped short once Zhao Zhe issued his order. Just like that, Grand Secretary Shen passed away.
Shen Clan held a funeral. The emperor had originally intended to pursue the matter of Grand Secretary Shen accepting bribes. However, the person had already died. What was there for him to pursue? Since this person was his father-in-law, the emperor even bestowed him a posthumously title.
Shen Youqing voluntarily remained in Shen Residence to observe the mourning period for her father. The emperor didn’t ask her to return to the palace either. Once the empress was gone from the palace, the imperial harem became livelier. One after another, beauties emerged. In the past, they had remained low-key to avoid being the target of the empress’s malicious scheming. But now, they came pouring out.
Zhao Zhe wasn’t a muddleheaded person. He only visited the imperial harem six to seven times each month. However, it was inevitable that part of his attention would be lost to devastatingly beautiful women with thin willow-like waists.
Taking advantage of Zhao Zhe’s periods of distraction, Marquis Moyu gradually began to handle the petitions sent to the emperor. Whether it was an important matter or a minor one, Ning Yuxuan would approach it in a manner similar to how the emperor would have handled it, even the handwriting he used was similar to Zhao Zhe’s. Ning Yuxuan started off with handling the unimportant petitions, and slowly, the petitions that were sent to emperor decreased.
At first, Zhao Zhe didn’t notice that there were fewer petitions for him to approve or reject. By the time he noticed, he couldn’t figure out what was happening exactly. When he opened the petitions to check, they were already approved, and it looked like the approvals were written in his handwriting too.
More beautiful women in the imperial harem approached him and took up more of his attention. In addition to Erxin, there were several women that looked very similar to Nie Sangyu. These new women were clever and knew what he liked. Because their appearances and mannerism were so similar to Nie Sangyu’s, he would zone out and have to be called several times before he returned to his senses.
Perhaps, he didn’t genuinely like Nie Sangyu. Maybe, he just liked her because he thought she was special and different from other women. As a fickle playboy, it was only normal that he had a strong desire for seeking novelty.
However, he was surprised and didn’t know why he would also really like these women just because they resembled Nie Sangyu after he had failed to obtain her.
This time, Ji Man’s pregnancy symptoms were bit more severe. She didn’t have much appetite, and it didn’t take much to set off her urge to vomit.
When Ning Yuxuan came back each day, he saw that her face was looking increasing gaunt.
“How did it get so bad?” Ning Yuxuan furrowed his brow. “What do you want to eat?”
Ji Man shook her head. She pursed her lips and answered, “All women have a hard time with pregnancy. It’s not like you’re witnessing this for the first time. I don’t feel like eating anything.”
It was true that this wasn’t the first time that Ning Yuxuan was seeing the toll that pregnancy took, but this was the first time he felt so distressed for the expecting mother.
Seeing his upset expression, Ji Man felt better. This was pretty good progress. Now, Marquis Moyu knew that he should feel distressed for his wife’s pain. In the past, he had handled his women like he was slicing cabbage. Now, he finally knew how to be considerate. It wasn’t a waste for her to abandon her modern-day life to remain here with him.
Ning Yuxuan suddenly asked, “After a period of time has passed, how about we go on a sightseeing trip together?”
Ji Man raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you have a lot of work to do in the imperial court?”