Having fun with his prized consort deep in the palace, the Jiazheng emperor didn’t expect the news that a bolt of thunder had crashed down on a clear day. Thinking of how much favor he bestowed onto Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu, the Jiazheng emperor harshly scolded the two. The two had never been berated to such a degree by his majesty and didn’t even dare to release a loud breath. Although they usually were able to do whatever they wished, that was all because his majesty didn’t question their policies. Even when people accused them of misconduct, the memorials wouldn’t reach his majesty. However, if his majesty truly became annoyed or disgusted by them, then that would be the worst case scenario. Under one person and above ten thousand people. Those at the top still have people above them. If this issue was not resolved adequately, then his majesty would not trust them again and their continued prosperity would be in danger.
“Every day, you told me that Prince Yue was conspiring to rebel! And they were all just a bunch of rumors! Now, not only have you not presented any evidence, you’ve also stirred up such a big mess! Seven hundred thousand! Prince Yue has seven hundred thousand men under his command! What do you say! Give me a solution!”
Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu kept quiet out of fear. They had never seen his majesty so angry before.
The Jiazheng emperor was panicking. He originally did not want to bother his little brother, after all they were blood brothers of the same mother, and the other party controlled much of the most important military forces. However, Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu said that Prince Yue held the intent to rebel. It was only because he felt that some of Prince Yue’s subordinates felt dissatisfied with the monarch that he ordered for Prince Yue’s arrest, and for the same reason, he ordered Zhang Zhong to find indisputable evidence of Prince Yue’s will to rebel. But now, not only did the man escape, he also rebelled! Prince Yue held the strongest forces in Southern Chu in his hand. Once something bad happened, he, the emperor, didn’t want to deal with it!
Angered to the point that his fingers were shaking, the Jiazheng emperor pointed at Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu as he scolded: “I don’t care what methods you have to use! Appease Prince Yue! Immediately appease Prince Yue! Give his two consorts a generous burial and immediately send men to find the eldest young master. Where is Prince Yue’s youngest son?”
Zhang Zhong perspired a cold layer of sweat and hesitated: “At, at Yi Chongren’s place. I don’t know where he took him.” He already used the child to make his medicine. How could he dare to say that the child was in his own hands.
“Immediately order Yi Chongren to bring the child into the palace!”
“Yi Chongren, is chasing Prince Yue and has yet to return to the capital……”
“Make him come back to the capital immediately!”
Although the Jiazheng emperor was an incapable ruler, he was still the emperor after all and still had some brains. He ordered Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu to appease Prince Yue and immediately summoned his military generals to transfer troops into the palace to prepare. This time, the Jiazheng emperor did not have Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu remain to discuss the proceedings and drove them out in anger. The two gloomily returned to their residence to convene with their subordinates to discuss countermeasures. If they didn’t handle this matter well, then their plans would truly be in the gutter.
The Jiazheng emperor was truly furious. Not only did he admonish Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu, he also went to Noble Consort Ru’s palace to reprimand Noble Consort Ru. After he finished reprimanding, the Jiazheng emperor flicked his dragon sleeve and left with a stomach full of raging anger. Noble Consort Ru, who was berated to tears, threw a tantrum in her room, smashing much of her belongings to pieces. This was truly a disaster. The angered Noble Consort Ru immediately ordered someone to go send a letter to Yi Chongren telling him to hurry back to the capital. At this time, the first person Noble Consort Ru thought of wasn’t her own father.
The atmosphere in the palace suddenly became tense. Not only the palace, but the entire nation of Southern Chu was tense. Prince Yue left fifty thousand soldiers at the garrison of Yidong to prevent the border from falling and brought sixty five thousand men, divided in five groups led by Huang Han, Xu Baicai, He Jia, Ruan Xingtian, and himself, to lead the troops in the same direction, towards the capital. For half a month, the army didn’t encounter much resistance. The Jiazheng emperor and the devils had long lost popular support and finally tasted the results of their immorality. However, for the sake of the dragon throne and continued glory and wealth, they wouldn’t give up easily.
After reading the urgent letter from the capital in his hand, Yi Chongren handed it to Yaba with a calm expression. Yaba directly burned it with the oil lamp on the table. Yi Chongren leaned on the head of the bed, half-laying on the bed. Although his face was still covered with makeup, because of his injured state, his face appeared even more pale. Once they left Jade City Pass, Yi Chongren directly entered the city without concealing his traces so that the Hu An guards and Noble Consort Ru’s people could find him easily.
“Once the sun rises tomorrow, let’s hurry to the capital. I don’t want to meet Prince Yue’s troops before returning to the capital.”
Yaba furrowed his eyebrows and Yi Chongren said weakly: “Prince Yue rose troops. We must help him with other matters when we return to the capital. If he still can’t take control of this land after all this, then he truly is a cowardly fool.”
Yaba walked to the bedside and whispered in Yi Chongren’s ear: “The injury on your shoulder is very serious. You’re not fit for travel.”
Yi Chongren sighed heavily and whispered back: “I’m afraid that if I return too late, the child will already be dead.”
Yaba pursed his lips and stopped talking.
Once dawn broke the next day, Yi Chongren and Yaba rushed back to the capital with the three hundred Hu An guards who arrived to meet them. Yi Chongren carried heavy injuries so their journey was a bit delayed. After twenty days, Yi Chongren finally returned to the capital. At this time, Prince Yue’s troops were like an unstoppable force, as the cities and towns around the strategic defensive positions along the border nearly all surrendered to Prince Yue without any resistance.
This time, the Jiazheng emperor personally drafted the imperial edict. First, he emphasized the deep brotherly affection they shared from their blood bond, and then said he had mistakenly listened to the slander of vile characters and wronged his little brother. He granted the two prince consorts generous burials, and claimed that both the eldest and youngest young masters were found and sent into the palace. He would ensure the safety of the two children and punish the treacherous officials who dared to slander his imperial brother.
Once this imperial edict by the Jiazheng emperor was released, even the most insensitive of people could sense that something was amiss. Vile characters……treacherous……all discerning people knew who would slander Prince Yue. If his majesty wanted to punish the treacherous officials who slandered Prince Yue, then wouldn’t that be taking down Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu? The court officials who hated these two to the bones immediately joined hands with his majesty, enumerating all the various villainous deeds of Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu, and begged his majesty to severely punish the two men and their two subordinates. Among the list of officials impeached, Yi Chongren was the third person named after Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu. Once they found the opportunity, the court officials who had always been looking for the opportunity to take down those powerful evildoers naturally would not let the chance slip away.
Zhang Zhong’s residence was enveloped in a thick, dull atmosphere. At this time, those who normally tyrannically abused their power didn’t even dare to release a deep breath. Now was the time that would determine whether they lived or died. Yi Chongren, who rushed back from Jade City Pass, sat down just one position beneath Zhang Zhong. His right arm hung in a sling of white cloth, and his face powder hardly concealed his weakness from injury, but his eyes still carried that chilling light that made whoever saw them feel a shiver down their spine. Everyone who sat there was one of Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu’s most trusted subordinates. Prince Yue raised troops, his majesty was angered, and the court officials were raising articles of impeachment. If it wasn’t for Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu’s operations over the years, they would have already been imprisoned long ago, but if they didn’t handle things properly this time, they would be in a very dangerous situation.
Yi Chongren secretly returned to the capital the day before. His majesty ordered for him to immediately bring Prince Yue’s youngest son into the palace once he returned to the capital. Zhang Zhong and Sun Jiyu suppressed the news of Yi Chongren’s return. Zhang Zhong absolutely couldn’t hand over the child, and Sun Jiyu thought the child was already dead, so in their eyes, this was another big issue. Sun Jiyu was a bit dissatisfied with Zhang Zhong. The Hu An guards were the ones who guarded Prince Yue’s mansion, but they allowed Prince Yue’s eldest son to escape right under their nose. If it wasn’t for Liu Yu that fool, things wouldn’t have become so hard to deal with. It was Sun Jiyu’s idea to deal with Prince Yue. As long as Prince Yue was here with hundreds of thousands of soldiers in his hands, the crown prince would be in a dangerous situation once he ascended to the throne. Killing Prince Yue would bring the most benefits to Sun Jiyu. However, the two of them were now like grasshoppers tied to the same rope. No matter how dissatisfied they were with each other, they first had to deal with the issues right before their eyes.
Zhang Zhong spoke with a dark expression: “Chongren, do you have any countermeasures? Liu Yu that bastard refused to say who supported him even until he died. I really didn’t expect that fool that lived off our kindness would dare to work against me behind my back. Killing him could be considered letting him off easy!”
Yi Chongren lowered his eyes and spoke in a voice that wasn’t high or low: “Right now our most urgent task is to regain his majesty’s trust. With his majesty’s support, those big officials won’t be able to make too much trouble. This matter needs Lord Sishi’s intervention.”
“Me?” Sun Jiyu knit his brows, “What can I do? His majesty won’t even see me.”
Yi Chongren lightly said: “His majesty is just venting his anger. Don’t forget who his majesty now favors the most.”
Sun Jiyu and Zhang Zhong’s eyes dulled for a moment and Zhang Zhong said: “Concubine Qin?”
Yi Chongren nodded and said: “Concubine Qin is currently favored. Let’s have her convince his majesty to see Lord Sishi. Although his majesty may be taking out his anger on the crown prince, the crown prince is his majesty’s only son and eventually, this world will belong to the crown prince. Prince Yue controls important troops. Even if he doesn’t rebel now, he might rebel once the crown prince ascends the throne. Lord Sishi should let his majesty understand that no matter how close a blood related brother may be, he is not as close as the crown prince. Prince Yue has already revealed his true face. Even if he has a change of heart, the knot in his heart will never truly disappear. Also, Prince Yue’s eldest son truly isn’t in our hands. It’s hard to determine whether he was taken by one of Prince Yue’s enemies. And the two prince consorts committed suicide. They were already dead before we reached them so we can’t be blamed for that. Even if we arrested Prince Yue, we didn’t impose severe punishment on Prince Yue. Saying we forced Prince Yue to reel is too much of a stretch.”
Yi Chongren finished speaking. Sun Jiyu and Zhang Zhong’s faces immediately revealed traces of joy. Exactly! Prince Yue’s eldest son’s disappearance and the two prince consorts’ suicide had nothing to do with them! Who knew who took the eldest young master. Maybe it could even be one of Prince Yue’s own plans.
Afterwards, Yi Chongren continued: “As for that child. Just carry one into the palace. I think even Prince Yue doesn’t even know what his youngest son looks like.”
“You’re right!” Zhang Zhong patted his thigh, “Newborn children look different everyday. If we say it’s Prince Yue’s son, who can say he isn’t? I’ll immediately send someone to find a suitable child.”
Yi Chongren spoke: “There’s no rush. First, have Lord Sishi enter the palace to appease his majesty. It’s best to be with the noble consort. One is a little brother that can still rebel any time in the future and the other is a biological son. His majesty should understand what’s important. Of course, Prince Yue should also be appeased. We can pull people who defected from Prince Yue to our side and chase Prince Yue under his majesty’s name for being disloyal and unjust. Not everyone can bear the name of rebellion and treason, so by then we will not have no chance of winning.”
“Good, good, as expected from Chongren!” The gloomy expression on Zhang Zhong’s face swept to one like the bright sound of sharpening a knife.
Sun Jiyu thought for a bit and said: “There is logic to Chongren’s words. This matter should not be delayed. I’ll enter the palace now.”
Zhang Zhong immediately stood: “Thank you for your trouble Lord Sishi. Then the Hu An guards will first deal with the families of those bandits. I don’t believe that they won’t care about their families’ life and death. Lord Sishi should directly find Concubine Qin. She will think of a way to appease his majesty.”
“That’s good. I will enter the palace immediately.”
Not staying any longer to chat, Sun Jiyu left with his subordinates. Once he left, Zhang Zhong also had his subordinates leave, leaving only Yi Chongren. Without any more outsiders, Zhang Zhong’s expression changed and he lowered his voice to ask: “Chongren, there are no outsiders now, do you have any other plans?” Zhang Zhong understood Yi Chongren. Although Yi Chongren was Noble Consort Ru’s confidante, they always kept a distance from Sun Jiyu. Zhang Zhong believed that Yi Chongren’s sincerity between himself and Sun Jiyu was different. The current situation did not favor him, so Yi Chongren would definitely think for him.
Yi Chongren stood and walked to the seat where Sun Jiyu was sitting just now a small table away from Zhang Zhong and leaned over. Zhang Zhong saw him come to whisper in his ear. He just knew Yi Chongren had other plans.
“If we fail this time, all of us will die. If we don’t fail, I’m afraid Lord Sishi will have some suspicions toward Lord Dugong.”
Zhang Zhong narrowed his eyes.
The corners of Yi Chongren’s lips curved upwards and he said with a sneer: “The main reason why Lord Dugong messed with Prince Yue was to help Lord Sishi. Now the situation has changed. Lord Dugong should have seen that Lord Sishi is dissatisfied.”
Zhang Zhong’s eyes darkened a bit.
“Prince Yue naturally holds some prejudices against Lord Dugong, but it’s not enough to tear apart his face. If it wasn’t for Lord Sishi continuously lobbying you, you wouldn’t have to do these strenuous, thankless tasks. If only you don’t act against Prince Yue, Prince Yue won’t see you in an irreconcilable light. After all these years, if Prince Yue really wanted to work against you, he would have taken action much sooner, right.”
Zhang Zhong’s hands tightened into fists.
“Your excellency, from the beginning, I did not approve of taking action against Prince Yue, but Liu Yu and the others kept following Lord Sishi to try and persuade you, so it made it difficult for me to speak. Your excellency, think. Even if you succeed, how many benefits could you reap? Lord Sishi is the uncle of the nation. Once the crown prince ascends to the throne, Lord Sishi will truly be under one and above ten thousand. At that point, what would you count as? With the emperor supporting his waist and him controlling the imperial guards, will Lord Sishi still accommodate you? If we get rid of his excellency, and replace him with one of his own people, the Hu An guards and imperial guards in Lord Sishi’s hands, and even the emperor would have to listen to him. Without the threat of Prince Yue, Lord Sishi would really be able to get whatever he wants. Your excellency, do you understand?”
Zhang Zhong gritted his teeth and his eyes turned red: “No wonder at that time Liu Yu kept talking about how dangerous Prince Yue was. So it turns out Liu Yu had already colluded with others behind my back long ago!”
Yi Chongren coldly said: “The issue of Prince Yue’s escape may have something to do with Lord Sishi. Your excellency, don’t forget, Ruan Xingtian’s troops were wearing the uniforms of the imperial guards.”
“Sun Jiyu!” Zhang Zhong furiously beat the table, “He dares to plan against me! I won’t let him off easy!”
Yi Chongren continued to share his analysis: “Prince Yue doesn’t want to kill me. He wants to capture me alive, but someone went behind his back to fire an arrow at me. When I was injured, the surprise on Prince Yue’s face wasn’t fake. Clearly, he didn’t arrange for someone to assassinate me in advance. Prince Yue asked me where his child is but didn’t ask where the eldest young master is. Prince Yue might know where the eldest young master is. Prince Yue asked this and didn’t want to kill me because he thinks his child is in my hands. Your excellency, who do you think wants to kill me? If I die, who would benefit the most?”
Zhang Zhong went mad with rage. His trusted aide betrayed him and now even Sun Jiyu dared to hold a knife behind him. It was as if they truly believed, he, Zhang Zhong, was a vegetarian! He immediately asked: “Do you have any good ideas? I definitely won’t let Sun Jiyu off lightly!”
The crimson eyeliner at the corners of Yi Chongren’s eyes appeared to be scorching flames.
Zhang Zhong laughed coldly: “You’re right. Sun Jiyu is the uncle of the nation. Even if he doesn’t kill me now, he will still kill me in the future. We must act first.”
Yi Chongren once again leaned over, almost sticking to Zhang Zhong’s ear, and said: “Not only Sun Jiyu.”
Zhang Zhong waited for the other party to explain and Yi Chongren whispered a reminder: “His majesty is already dissatisfied with your excellency. Sun Jiyu has the crown prince, but what about you?”
Zhang Zhong gasped, but immediately, he ruthlessly said: “We must do this!” Since they had already started this, they must carry it out no matter what!
Yi Chongren lowered his voice to the lowest degree possible, and after speaking like this for a long time, Zhang Zhong couldn’t help but nod. After Yi Chongren stepped back, Zhang Zhong asked: “Regarding that child, should we……” he made a killing motion.
“Leave it to this subordinate. Regarding the family of those rebels, let’s spare their lives for the time being and use them to control those rebels. They are more useful to us alive.”
“Ok. It’s all up to you!”
Right now, Zhang Zhong trusted Yi Chongren absolutely. With Yi Chongren’s plans, Zhang Zhong became even more ruthless. In the current situation, either he would die or others would die. Zhang Zhong naturally understood how pathetic he would end up if he was pulled from his position of power. He must take the initiative.
After he finished discussing with Zhang Zhong, Yi Chongren left the Zhang residence. Once he stepped out the door, he could see the palace litter waiting outside. Yi Chongren entered the litter without a word. Yaba didn’t leave with him. Sitting in the litter, the corners of Yi Chongren’s lips rose in an inconspicuous smile.
 一根绳上的蚂蚱 means that they were two people involved with the same case and none of them could get away with it
 司使: kind of means secretary. Baidu explanation I threw in deepl: After the middle of the Tang Dynasty, the financial administration became more and more complicated, so the ministers were appointed to judge the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Salt and Iron Transport to manage the financial revenue and expenditure, rent and taxation, and salt and iron monopoly respectively. In the first year of the reign of Emperor Mingzong of the Later Tang Dynasty (926 A.D.), one minister was appointed to be the judge of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Finance and the Salt and Iron Transit Agent. In the first year of Changxing (930 A.D.), the three ministers were merged into one, called the Three Secretaries, who were in charge of financial revenue and expenditure, rent and taxation, and salt and iron monopoly affairs. In the Northern Song Dynasty, the three ministers were in charge of the national money and grain payments and balanced the financial income and expenditure, and were the highest financial officials in the central government, called “the minister of planning”. In the fifth year of Yuanfeng of Emperor Shenzong of Song Dynasty (1082 AD), the official system was changed, and the functions of the Three Secretaries were merged into the Ministry of Household Affairs.