Li Yuanying’s bold act of gathering the study group made the Emperor notice him. Li Er approached the boy and asked what he was up to.
Hearing brother’s questioning tone, Yuanying felt wronged: “Am I not allowed to study with my friends?”
His Majesty looked at him suspiciously, not convinced that he was just studying.
Yuanying then told his brother about his scheme planned for College admission day. He firmly claim that sister Shu’s brother is a promising talent, so he has decided to help him by making him a target. How can we get better if we do not face setbacks? He wants to bring all his friends along for the exam. Whoever that does poorly will be embarrassed. He will definitely be motivated to work hard!
Li Er replied casually: “More like you taking revenge on him for wanting to take away his sister and not allowing you to play with her.”
“Am I such a stingy person?”
Li Er squinted his eye at him. It meant “you are indeed a stingy person”.
“Lord Brother, do you think my strategy is not good?”
“It’s a good idea.”
Thinking back to two years ago where this younger brother of his was scolded by everyone for being unlearned and incompetent. Now he has the confidence and foundation to compete with Wei Ying who is two years older.
Li Er nodded : “Okay, go back to studying. Don’t end up last in the exam.”
Seems like he got the Emperor’s permission on this matter.
What Li Yuanying does best is holding chicken feathers as arrows. Once he has gotten the Emperor’s approval, he went straight to Kong Yingda to share that he will be bringing along some friend for the admission test.
Kong Yingda was annoyed with this nonsense. The Imperial Academy is the most prestigious school in all of Tang Empire. How can he allow this kid to make a fool out of it.
He frowned. “What nonsense?!”
“Lord Brother agreed to it. What’s wrong? You just need to prepare a few more sets of exam paper. Yuanying hummed unhappily. “I’m not planning to study at your college; not even if I were invited. I will open my own large academy in the future!”
Kong Yingda was angered by the statement. “You keep clamoring about opening an academy at such a young age. Don’t mislead the others.”
Li Yuanying was not a coward and retorted immediately. “The academy I run will not be like yours. Won’t even allow others to take an exam.”
“Okay! If you want to take the exam, come and take the exam. Don’t end up failing to answer even the title question when the time comes.”
Yuanying took this opportunity and passed him the list of children planning to take the exam.
Kong Yingda took the list and told the boy to scoot. In case he really gets beaten up.
Li Yuanying achieved his goal and ran away happy.
Kong Yingda was provoked and immediately asked that the book list be sent to his disciples so that that they could identify difficult topics from it. The more difficult the better. Let’s show these kids who don’t know the heights of heaven and earth. Let’s see if they can still be so proud when they see the questions!
After giving orders, he was still a little unhappy. He went looking for the Emperor hoping that he would discipline his children. Don’t treat all places under the sun as a place to fool around.
“Since the Academy has its own rules, we follow those strictly.” (Li Er)
Kong Yingda was startled and hesitantly asked: “Your Majesty means that if they pass the exam, we invite them to study in the Imperial Academy?”
“That’s natural. Since they feel that there’s nothing else to learn in the palace, let them go to the Imperial Academy to learn something. Only when they can pass all the exam will dearest minister Kong release them out. “
When studying in the Imperial Academy, all basic needs like food, clothing, housing and transportation are provided. Of course the conditions are not as good as those within the palace ground. Beautiful thoughts of having your own room and servants waiting on you will not happen.
Last year, the Imperial Academy expanded its enrollment and recruited a group of hard to manage students. Kong Yingda was worried and so would complain to the Emperor from time to time, saying that these people were not easy to manage and are ignoring the rules of the Academy. Some would secretly sneak home and some would bribe poorer students to take care of their daily life. If you catch them, they would all say that it’s voluntary. There’s no reason to punish them. After all you can’t say that helping out fellow classmates is not allowed.
As soon as Kong Yingda heard the Emperor’s statement he understood his intentions: The Emperor is placing great importance in this Academy and so it would be impossible to allow it to become a playground of the Royal children. If you were to put the Emperor’s brother and son as students here and treat them equally, no one would dare make trouble. No matter how powerful your father is, can he be more powerful than the Emperor himself?
“Your Majesty is wise.”
After he finished speaking, he remembered that there were three girls on the list: Wei Shu, Princess Chengyang and the former Lady of Talents Wu Mei.
Kong Yingda asked for clarification: “Should Princess Chengyang and the other two be treated equally?”
“I remember that the princess of Silla are also studying in the Imperial Academy. If they can really pass the exam, you can arrange them to be classmates with the daughters of Silla.”
The Queen of Silla is now in power. Those she sent to study in Tang include her cousin sister Jin Shengman. When she first registered to study at the Imperial Academy, it naturally caused some controversy. However, she was successfully enrolled due to her knowledge and skills. She has been studying here for more than a year and is smart and eager to learn. Initially she didn’t speak the Tang language but is now able to grasp basic Tang knowledge. Even Kong Yingda has to admit that this foreign princess is very smart.
If the princess of Silla can go to school, what reason is there for the princess of Tang not be able to?
As for Wei Shu and Wu Mei, just treat them as companions.
Kong Yingda have always wanted to deal with the delinquent aristocratic children who were getting out of hand. Therefore, he didn’t argue with His Majesty and accepted the proposal. After all, passing the exam is a big challenge, let’s discuss this only after they have successfully pass the exam!
Since there was an agreement between both, Kong Yingda left and changed his arrangements. Since the plan is to trick Li Yuanying and Li Zhi into the academy as “benchmarks for rectification”, the questions naturally couldn’t be too difficult. It was enough to hit them with a few difficult ones but they had to pass the exam in the end.
Since then, every time Kong Yingda saw Li Yuanying coming by to ask questions, he was very patient, as if almost treating him as his own nephew.
Li Yuanying felt weird and murmured to Li Zhi, “I think Old Kong is trying to mess with me.”
Li Zhi didn’t think anything was wrong: “Teacher Kong has always been like this. He has always been kind to us!”
Li Zhi said truthfully: “If you weren’t always making him angry, he wouldn’t always scold you.”
Sounds reasonable. Maybe Kong Yingda noticed that he is now eager to learn and so changed his attitude towards him. There’s no need to make a fuss. He quickly put aside his initial suspicion and continue leading his friends for half a day of study and half a day of playtime on a daily basis. Occasionally he would visit Wei Ying to provoke him by saying: “We have finished reading so-and-so book, what’s your progress?” This made Wei Ying burn the midnight oil nightly, for fear that he would really be overshadowed by Li Yuanying, who he once looked down upon!
In the blink of an eye, it was already mid-May. The Imperial astronomer observed the skies and found a star that was weak at night. This is a sign of a “broom star” which is extremely unlucky. The Imperial astronomer thought about it and deduced that it was due to last month’s decision to carry out the Feng and Shan ritual an official rite offered by the Son of Heaven to pay homage to heaven and earth. at Mount Tai which was against destiny. He hopes that His Majesty Li Er will not perform the same ritual at Mount Tai next year.
Li Yuanying never bothers attending court session and so he wasn’t aware that Li Er would pay a visit to Mount Tai. Hearing that a broom star appeared last night, he regretted that he slept too soundly and couldn’t catch a glimpse of the famous fabled broom star. He announced that today’s study session would be canceled and everyone is to follow him to look for Li Chunfeng to learn more about the broom star. His mainly wanted to find out what does the legendary broom star looked like.
Li Chunfeng specializes in this area and he easily shared to the little radishes all about this unlucky comet. He shared with them all past records from ancient times to present and even drew them pictures of it the way it is visible to the naked eye.
Li Yuanying listened with great interest.
Them, he learned all about “disaster theories”. It is said that disasters included insects, epidemics, floods, droughts and so on while “abnormalities” included things like solar and lunar eclipses, meteorites, comets and so on. According to Confucianism, the occurrence of such celestial phenomena or disasters is a very serious scourge. Therefore, the imperial court had to take countermeasures to avoid the citizens from panicking.
Generally speaking, these so-called countermeasures are either for the Emperor to reflect on his doings or for the Prime Minister to resign. This time, everything is under control as there is a ready excuse to blame – The Emperor should not visit Mount Tai for Feng and Shan ritual.
Li Yuanying was unhappy hearing this. He has read about such things in history books but never paid it much attention. He remembered that in history books, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty would go to Mount Tai for a visit once every 5 years since establishing the Feng and Shan ritual. In total he went there at his leisure 5 to 6 times, such freedom!
Brother has been on the throne for 15 years and he has never been to Mount Tai! The most important thing is that he too hasn’t been to Mount Tai since he was born.
The boy was disappointed: “Then it’s true that we won’t be able to visit Mount Tai next year?”
“The Imperial Astronomer’s order has been put in writings and then all the other courtiers will dissuade his Majesty too.” (Li Chunfeng)
Li Chunfeng explained the reasons. For more than 20 years since the founding of Tang, the citizens have been lightly taxed for them to recuperate. With that, the treasury has not been filled and is far lacking from the richness of the previous Sui Dynasty. Now most wealth is at the hands of the aristocratic families and the imperial court struggles to implement much. Under such circumstances, Wei Zheng and the other ministers will not be willing to work hard to engage in rituals like Feng and Shan.
In short, no money so no one support the Emperor in his plan to visit Mount Tai.
Li Yuanying was stunned. “Seems like Lord brother is really poor.”
“It’s not that father is poor. It is about the Court having to do too many things.” (Li Zhi)
Li Yuanying doesn’t care about the court’s workload, Li Yuanying only cares about whether he can visit Mount Tai.
“Wait till my tea start selling, I will then lend money to brother. Then brother can bring me to Mount Tai to play!”
Li Zhi reminded him: “Your fief is actually not far from Mount Tai, you can play there as many times as you like.”
Yuanying recalled that Mount Tai was to the East, and his fief Tengzhou was also in the East. They are indeed not far away for each other!
Li Yuanying said without psychological pressure: “Then I won’t lend him money.” Brother is so sly and cunning, what happens if he refuses to return my money?
Li Zhi was speechless.
That evening, Sizi sold Li Yuanying and Li Zhi without them knowing. She told her father the Emperor all about the astronomical knowledge she had learned from Li Chunfeng and then about the conversation between Li Yuanying and Li Zhi.
“Young Uncle originally said that he would lend you money for a trip to Mount Tai. But then brother reminded uncle that Tengzhou is very close to Mount Tai. Then uncle said no to borrowing money!”
Ever since he learned about the broom star, Li Er has been in a bad mood. Anyone who brings up this matter is met with his stinky attitude. But it is different for Sizi as she is his favorite daughter. He wasn’t angry but just snuck a look at Li Yuanying who was feasting on the side.
He then raised his eyebrows and said: “It’s not not a gentleman thing for one to go back on his words.”
Li Yuanying put down his chopsticks and retorted: “I only have little money now, it is like a drop in the ocean for you. So no point lending you money for now!”
He assured Li Er very responsibly. “Brother, don’t worry, when I go to my fief, I will build you a road from Chang’an to Mount Tai and give you a comfortable residence along the way. I’ll make sure you visit Mount Tai without spending a single penny from the treasury. Don’t talk about going just once, you can go every year if that’s what you want!”
“Okay, I will remember this. If you fail to do it then I will punish you for deceiving the Emperor and throw you to Yazhou.”
Yuanying turned around to asked Li Zhi, “Where is Yazhou?”
Li Zhi thought for a while and replied: “On the southernmost island, facing Lingnan Road to the North across the sea and Jiaozhou to the west across the sea. Sea everywhere, far away from Chang’an.”
Yuanying nodded and said enthusiastically: “Sounds fun. Just throw me away! Don’t worry, I’ll build boats and follow the coast to travel back here. I’ll come back to see you every 8 or 10 years.”
Li Er scolded: “Didn’t you plan to accompany someone to take the Imperial Academy exam? Go home and study after eating.”
Li Yuanying took the children and murmured to Li Zhi when they left: “It’s not like I initiated it. He himself wanted to throw me there and then he got angry. He really is moody. No wonder people says that to accompany the King is like accompanying a tiger’!”
Li Zhi: “…”
|↑1||an official rite offered by the Son of Heaven to pay homage to heaven and earth.|