The Emperor had his birthday banquet with his officials at noon. Being in a merry environment where everyone congratulated him and after a few rounds of drinks, he started praising his youngest brother. He went on and on about how this younger brother has grown up and is becoming more sensible. He can now live up to the promises he made to his late father upon his death bed!
The officials all felt that this was an older brother’s bias. No matter from what angle, his younger brother will not appear too horrible in his eyes. Well, that kid called Li Yuanying has indeed changed a little but it is absolutely impossible to describe him as “sensible”.
At the very least, lately he has developed “ideas” from studying and often goes to the Imperial Academy to “discuss” these topics. Having top-notch skills in nitpicking on issues, he almost caused a gang fight among the students.
If it weren’t for his popular friends at the Academy, he would have became the target of students’ beatings. After all, this kid only asks tricky questions and when he stumps people, he triumphantly laughs at them. No matter how well tempered a person is, they will not be able to tolerate his behaviour. There’s a rumour going on that Li Yuanying would end his statement with “You guys are not smart like Brother Wei. Do you know Brother Wei? He is Wei Ying, the grandson of Imperial Duke Zheng, Wei Zheng. Although he is not a student here yet but he will soon be one!”
Kong Yingda told Wei Zheng about this in private and asked him to be prepared. With Li Yuanying’s provocation, his grandson would become the target even before entering the Academy! Then Kong Yingda went on to comfort Wei that his grandson will not be alone. Li Yuanying will soon reap what he has sow!
Therefore, when Wei Zheng heard the Emperor praising his younger brother, his mouth involuntarily twitched. That kid is indeed smart but is too reckless. God knows what will become of him if the Emperor continues pampering him like this! Wei Zheng is very much in favor to Li Yuanying and Li Zhi taking the entrance exam in two days. Regardless of whether he can restrain that kid, let him suffer first!
Since the Emperor wasn’t getting enthusiastic responses, he asked that his earlier calligraphy piece be brought out for everyone to review.
Li Er is quite narcissistic and usually likes praises. When he gets excited, he will boast that “Although I am the Emperor, I often take on the work of a general.” Of course, he would get criticism afterwards about him being greedy and fighting for credits with his courtiers.
Everyone present could recognize the Emperor’s handwriting. Because today is a day of special celebration, Wei Zheng didn’t say anything to spoil the fun. He complimented the Emperor on his good handwriting and the good meaning behind the piece. “A gentle and pleasant breeze” means that the people can recuperate and live in peace and contentment!
Li Er was in great mood from all the praises, however that was not his main purpose. He waited for everyone to be done before asking: “What do you think of this paper?”
Those present were caught off guard by this question. Paper? What’s so special about it? Isn’t it similar to all ordinary paper?
Zhangsun Wuji boldly stood up.
“Forgive me for my poor eyesight but I don’t see a difference. Please Your Majesty, enlighten us.”
Li Er clapped his hands and laughed: “Do you see any difference? That’s right, this paper is not very different from the usual but its production cost is less than 10% of the original!”
Everyone was shocked. Civil servants like Kong Yingda were excited: “Your Majesty, are you serious?”
Li Er said with a smile: “This is my birthday present from my youngest brother. The method of making this paper has already been dedicated to me. The Ministry of Works will be sent to Prince Teng’s place for training. We must master this skill early so that students all over the world can use cheap paper!”
Kong Yingda wasn’t expecting this invention to be from Li Yuanying. He felt a little complicated and even doubted his own vision.
He has always thought that Li Yuanying was stubborn and unbearable. However with Wei Zheng and Xiao Deyan teaching him, the boy has showed a different kind of talent. He reads, write and do things with wisdom far beyond his peers. When Li Yuanying promise to “Let everyone have access to books” he felt that the kid was just talking big and secretly mocks him for not being afraid of being strike on the tongue. But he actually started a library and is now creating cheap paper!
Could it be that he really did misjudged and lost out on such a good student?
Kong Yingda thought for a second. Li Yuanying is about to enter the Academy and that would make him his student! With such an idea, he couldn’t sit still. After the birthday banquet, he caught up with the Emperor to push that Li Yuanying be allowed to take exam right after new year so that he will be enrolled by spring time.
The Emperor is now feeling more sober and could sense Kong Yingda’s thoughts. He is getting impatient because Yuanying is doing so well.
Li Er answered in an instant. “Okay. I’ll get someone to inform the children.”
Civil officers are thin-skinned. Kong Yingda’s face became red when Li Er smiled at him. But when he thought that his school is about to usher in new changes, he didn’t care about such a small embarrassment. He has gotten consent and asked his students to prepare a test that was neither too difficult nor too easy.
Evening came and it was time for the royal family to gather. Everyone prepared a birthday gift for the Emperor. Although the gift was not necessarily expensive, it was picked carefully with much care.
Li Chengqian being the crown prince, has it tricky. If he presents too much he will be criticized; if he gives too simply he will be criticized too! Therefore, he needed a gift that was satisfactory but not too outstanding. The Emperor didn’t say much upon seeing it and just instructed that his gift be received with a slight nod.
Li Tai has already heard news that his father was praising Li Yuanying’s gift at noon and secretly hated him for not following the rules. Why did he send a gift ahead of schedule?Always wanting to be the one who stands out! Li Tai gritted his teeth and put away the jade carvings he had initially prepared. He then took out <<Comprehensive Gazetteer>> which he has been restoring for several years.
He will not believe that new paper invented by mere craftsmen will be better than the book he has been refining for several year. The Emperor must like his gift more!
After Li Ke is done, Li Tai personally went forward with many volumes of <<Comprehensive Gazetteer>> for His Majesty to read.
The Emperor sent many talents like Xiao Deyan to Li Tai precisely for this project. Hearing that it is fully restored, the Emperor is naturally satisfied. He took a thick volume and glance through it. The book is brilliant, the records detailed and well-founded and not boring to read.
Immediately, father became happy and boasted: “As expected of my son!”
Everyone knew that the battle is over. No matter how well prepared they were, this is His Majesty’s favorite birthday gift. The fourth child is too cruel. He actually used something that has been several years in works as his gift to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday!
Li Chengqian looked around with no expression. He is not a likable child and it is impossible for him and father to be close like an ordinary pair of father and son.
The fourth son on the other hand couldn’t sit still after hearing about Li Yuanying’s offering. He wanted to be the best and so he presented his winning card.
Yuanying was standing near Chengqian. While everyone else was busy watching the deep interaction between father and son, the boy leans close to Chengqian.
“Chengqian, Have you ask for Master Xiao’s help?”
Hearing this, he remembers Yuanying’s proposal earlier. “Father has his own plan for old scholar Xiao, how dare we interfere.” If he opens his mouth now, he will be bashed by the public!
Li Yuanying hated such cowardly behaviour. “If you don’t say anything, how will others know what you want?!”
Really now is a situation where the nephew is not anxious but the uncle is. He quickly gave Chengqian a detailed run down on why it is beneficial to ask.
“Xiang’er is now at the age where he should be studying. Let teacher Xiao teach him. No one else can teach better. Don’t believe it? Just look at me. My mind was enlighten by this great teacher. Anyway, today is not the 1st or 2nd day of you getting a scolding, so why does it matter. Is dignity more important than letting Xiang’er get enlighten?”
As Yuanying persuade him quietly, Chengqian started buying into his idea. If he doesn’t fight for things, what will his son do in the future? He is no longer single. He has a wife and a child now so he needs to do the necessary things when the situation arises.
Li Yuanying using himself is a great example. Chengqian knew how uncle was like in the past. Those who were tortured by young uncle to the point of swearing on their death bed against ever teaching such a b*stard again were many. But after being taught by Wei Zheng and Xiao Deyan, young uncle became more sensible and read better books. He even went to the Imperial Academy to have intellect duel with with the Confucian scholars without any fear!
Chengqian nodded in agreement:”I will talk to father later.”
“That’s right. As a father, you need to think about Xiang’er and choose the best for him.”
Yuanying got a knack from giving instructions to his nephew and was becoming restless. He wandered around looking for a bunch of young nephews and grandnieces to play with. He then taught them how to congratulate the Emperor.
“You don’t need to prepare any gifts. Just look at the many people ahead who is already doing that. We should practice a special birthday speech to make imperial grandfather happy.”
Li Xiang responded first.
Then little round ball quickly ran to Yuanying’s side and hugged his knees to express his agreement.
The others were a little hesitant at first but upon hearing the highest ranked cousins saying okay, they agreed bravely too.
Yuanying took them out to hide and instructed them to rehearse.
When they got outside, Li Yuanying counted and realized that he had quite a few grand-nephews and nieces who had just learned how to speak. He asked that they line up according to their age and height and asked them to read a sentence each.
We start with Li Xiang who should say “live as long as the heaven lasts” followed by Little Round Ball with “flood of good fortune fills the heavens” and then “blessing as immense as the East sea”one after another neatly connected into a string of words.
Yuanying squat down to share that this is called Solitaire. Since everyone is part of the royal family, we should unite as one until we become a dragon. Even if one person is missing, it is lacking something. We with the surname Li have to take good care of each other.
After that, he asked the children to practice in low voices several times and then reminded them one by one: “If anyone forgets a words, the person in front should remind the one behind in a low voice. This is not cheating, this is called unity!”
The kids were all 2 to 3 years old little beans who has never been entrusted with serious task before. They were all excited and happily agreed.
After everyone is done with the gifting ceremony, Li Xiang led a bunch of tiny beans into a line in front of the Emperor and performed for him in a childish voice. Some of these children were born and raised elsewhere and had stage fright due to the crowd. Some really did forget their lyrics and had to rely on those standing nearby for help.
Although there were some hiccups, the birthday performance was perfectly put together. His Majesty being middle-aged, likes having children surrounding him. Since his own children are all almost adults, of course a group of little beans will make him very happy. His Majesty hugged Li Xiang onto his lap, pulled Little round ball into his arms and recognizes each and every grandchildren one by one. He then asked Li Xiang: “Who taught you?”
Even if you think with your feet you would know that these children can’t come up with this idea themselves.
Li Xiang and Little round ball repeated Yuanying’s words to His Majesty. When it comes to remembering Yao Yao’s words, they are the best!
Upon hearing this, His Majesty patted the two grandsons lovingly: “Yao Yao is right, you must remember what he has taught you.” He then praised other grandchildren and rewarded them.
Children were naturally happy to receive a reward and happily ran back to their parents. Parents who didn’t allow their children to follow Li Yuanying were now regretful. If they had known that young uncle would give their child such a good chance to get attention, they will surely allow them to follow!
Li Yuanying didn’t care about what others thought of him. When he was done playing, he sat down to eat and after eating, he took Little radishes heads and Little beans out to play wildly. He stayed until the party was over.
Lady Liu had long been looking forward to his return. Seeing his face flushed, she reached out her hand and asked with concern: “Have you been drinking?”
“Nope! I was just playing with Xiang’er and the children.”
Lady Liu initially wanted to remind Yuanying not to play too wildly for it would be bad if any of the Royal children got hurt. But knowing her son’s stubborn temper, she held her tongue and only asked if he did alright during the gifting session.
“All is good. I heard from Chengqian that brother was showing off my gift to his courtiers during noon. He likes it very much!”
As mother and son were talking, a reward from the Emperor came to them. Yuanying happily led Lady Liu to accept it and said to mother: “Look, Brother is really satisfied, right?”
He look around at all his reward. They were all things that he had expressed his liking to. Great, brother really understands him.
Seeing that the gifts from the Emperor were extravagant enough to make others jealous and that Yuanying loves them, Lady Liu felt a sense of relief. She smiled and watched on while her son went on and on about all the treasures that he likes.
“This was something I wanted last time but brother didn’t give it to me.”
“This I have my eyes on for a long time but didn’t get.”
Finally, she helps her child to put them all away, promising to keep them as family heirlooms according to his wishes.
After keeping everything, he murmured to Lady Liu: “Just now Qingque presented <<Comprehensive Gazetteer>> to the Emperor. I wonder if this book is good to read but Teacher Xiao helped on this project so it should be good. Once brother is done reading it I will ask him to lend it to me!”
Of cause Lady Liu nodded her head in agreement to Li Yuanying wanting to read. She doesn’t understand many principles in life but it is always right to read and learn more.
Notes from the author:
His Majesty Li Er: Praise, go on praise harder. Once you’re done I will tell you that you are all wrong!
Courtiers: Shameless! ! !
Little Prince: Brother, I heard that Qing Que compiled a book (rubbing hands)
Fourth nephew: Get lost! go away! ! !