Chapter 42: The Last Mediator, Zhu Di’s Return
“Dao Yan is back?”
Zhu Di abruptly stood up, looking surprised at Zhu Gaoxu, then turned his gaze to Zhu Gaochi, asking, “Didn’t you just say that Dao Yan entered the Hanlin Academy and is currently in the capital?”
Zhu Gaochi frowned as he held the “Cats Theory” in his hand and said, “The news I just received is indeed true. Second brother, what’s going on?”
Zhu Gaoxu quickly said, “I am also unaware of the situation, but Master Dao Yan has already arrived outside the King of Yan’s residence.”
Zhu Di kicked off the blanket and wanted to go out to greet Dao Yan, but Zhu Gaochi held him back and said, “Father, Dao Yan’s entry into the Hanlin Academy is information from the capital, sent by our people. It is absolutely reliable. If he has truly come to Beiping, it must be at the Emperor’s behest. You cannot see him!”
Zhu Gaoxu also blocked the door and advised, “Big brother is right. It could be the Emperor sending him to test you.”
“Anyone in the world can betray me, Zhu Di, except for Master Dao Yan!”
Zhu Di wanted to go out and meet Dao Yan, but Zhu Gaochi and Zhu Gaoxu were adamant in stopping him.
Dao Yan arrived in the capital in September and now, three months later, he has returned to Beiping.
Has people’s hearts changed? Who can say for sure?
According to the news from the capital, Dao Yan’s current position is that of a Hanlin Academician Expositor-in-waiting. In simpler terms, he is by Zhu Yunwen’s side. If Dao Yan were to see Zhu Di pretending to be mad and report it to the Emperor, it would be a crime of disrespecting the court and deceiving the ruler.
“Very well, bring him in.”
Zhu Di sat back in the corner with a gloomy face.
Zhu Gaozhi and Zhu Gaoxu, seeing this, reluctantly left the inner residence to meet Dao Yan.
Upon seeing the familiar two princes, Dao Yan greeted them and sighed, “Your Highnesses, I came here today only hoping to see the King of Yan and exchange a few words. I request your permission.”
“A few words? Or a few messages?”
Zhu Gaoxu’s eyes carried a hint of dissatisfaction. He had seen the news from the capital and the intelligence provided by this source had never been wrong. If it said that Dao Yan entered the Hanlin Academy, then he must have entered.
If Dao Yan only wanted to speak, that would be fine, as he would still be one of their own. But if he wanted to deliver a message, then he would be a supporter of Emperor Jianwen.
“Heh, it’s a combination of both.”
Dao Yan said calmly, disregarding Zhu Gaoxu’s coldness.
Zhu Gaoxu abruptly stood up, but Zhu Gaochi quickly stopped him, gesturing for him to sit down, and then said to Dao Yan, “I heard that Master entered the Hanlin Academy. Is the news accurate?”
Dao Yan nodded earnestly and said, “It is as commanded by the Emperor.”
Zhu Gaochi and Zhu Gaoxu looked at Dao Yan, both finding it difficult to accept this outcome. After all, Dao Yan had been working in the King of Yan’s residence for over ten years. It could be said that he had been with Zhu Gaochi and Zhu Gaoxu for a long time.
Now, their once trusted friend had sided with Zhu Yunwen!
What loyalty could there be between them now?
Suppressing the anger in his heart, Zhu Gaochi stood up and said, “Father’s health hasn’t been good recently. When Master sees him, please try to keep some distance and be cautious.”
Dao Yan chuckled and thanked him, saying, “I hope your highnesses can lead the way.”
Zhu Gaochi and Zhu Gaoxu escorted Dao Yan to the inner residence. Zhu Gaoxu gave Zhu Gaochi a glance and then positioned himself behind, whispering to Qiu Fu as they passed by, “If he is a secret agent of the court, we cannot let him leave the inner residence alive!”
Qiu Fu solemnly nodded in response.
Zhu Gaochi stopped in his tracks, pushed open the door, and said, “Master, please enter.”
Dao Yan lifted his foot and entered the room. He looked at Zhu Gaochi and Zhu Gaoxu, who wanted to follow him inside, and said, “I kindly request that the two princes allow this old monk to have a private conversation with the King of Yan.”
Zhu Gaochi frowned slightly but eventually nodded.
Dao Yan closed the door behind him and walked towards the room. He looked at Zhu Di, sitting in the corner with disheveled hair and a blanket draped over him. His gaze was filled with unfamiliarity and vigilance.
Is this acting?
It was both admirable and heartbreaking in its authenticity.
Dao Yan walked to a spot not far from Zhu Di, sat on the ground, twirled his Buddhist beads, and sighed, “Your Highness, you and I met in the fifteenth year of the Hongwu era. Counting carefully, it has been nearly seventeen years. In life, how many seventeen-year periods are there?”
Seeing Zhu Di remain silent, Dao Yan didn’t mind and continued, “This humble monk is already sixty-four years old. In another seventeen years, will I still be alive? If I were to pass away in obscurity, with no one knowing the name of Dao Yan, what would be the purpose of my lifelong learning and endeavors? I would rather die in a thunderstorm than grow old on a sickbed!”
“Therefore, serving by your highness’s side, inciting and plotting, is nothing more than to overturn the world, witness the ever-changing fortunes, and leave my name in the annals of history. It is to prove that my life’s path is not unworthy of my learned skills!”
“Since the passing of Emperor Taizu and the ascension of Emperor Jianwen, I have secretly observed Jianwen. But he is nothing more than a weak scholar, unable to withstand a single blow. Your Highness, your hegemonic ambitions are within reach! However, it was only after entering the capital in September and discussing the world with Emperor Jianwen that I woke up to the realization. The current Emperor is no ordinary monarch. He possesses the dominating aura to establish an everlasting legacy, the boldness to govern the land, the ability to control the tides of fortune, and the astonishing talent to foresee and plan!”
At this point, Dao Yan paused, his gaze fixed deeply on Zhu Di, and he said solemnly, “What you are doing now, the Emperor has foreseen since September. The Emperor has never taken action because he doesn’t want you to raise an army, he doesn’t a fight within family, and most importantly, he doesn’t want you, Your Highness, to meet your demise on your journey south. So, Your Highness, please stop pretending.”
Zhu Di looked at Dao Yan, and his gaze gradually became clear. He stood up, tidied his hair, and chuckled, “So it seems that Master’s visit today is to persuade me?”
Dao Yan looked at Zhu Di, who was indeed pretending to be mad, and was convinced of Zhu Yunwen’s prediction. He stood up and said, “To persuade? Perhaps. My purpose in coming here is to hope that the King of Yan and I can work together to achieve greatness.”
“Greatness? Haha, Dao Yan, you have entered the Hanlin Academy, but what greatness can there be? I’m afraid that once you leave the residence, I will already be imprisoned!”
Zhu Di angrily shouted.
Dao Yan took a step forward and solemnly said, “Your Highness, when I speak of working together for a great cause, it is not about treason but about the internal and external affairs of the Ming Dynasty. Internally, it means ushering in an era of prosperity, and externally, it means expanding our territory and opening up the Silk Road once again, reviving the glory of the Han and Tang dynasties, and witnessing a brilliant era of prosperity.”
Zhu Di waved his sleeve and said, “What does that have to do with me? History will only remember Zhu Yunwen and not me, Zhu Di!”
Dao Yan fell silent.
Zhu Di sat at the desk, drinking his wine.
Suddenly, Dao Yan broke the silence and said, “If history remembers Your Highness, would you be willing to submit to the Emperor?”
Zhu Di frowned and looked at Dao Yan, asking, “What do you mean?”
Dao Yan’s gaze was profound as he said to Zhu Di, “Has Your Highness not read ‘Cats Theory’?”
Zhu Di was somewhat surprised. Not long ago, Zhu Gaochi brought a booklet titled “Cats Theory”, but he hadn’t had the chance to read it. Could it be that there was something mysterious about this “Cats Theory”?
Dao Yan took out a handwritten copy of “Cats Theory” from his pocket and handed it to Zhu Di, saying, “Your Highness, this is ‘Cats Theory’ written by the current Emperor. It has already been copied and circulated countless times, and it is known throughout the government offices and counties.”
Zhu Di opened “Cats Theory” and carefully read it, being amazed by Zhu Yunwen’s novel ideas and perspectives.
It’s true, regardless of whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice, it is a good cat.
Zhu Yunwen followed this principle, not asking about one’s background, embracing diversity, and daring to employ capable individuals. The key is to govern the country with talent and policies, and that is also correct.
“Cats Theory” is irrefutable and beneficial to the Ming Dynasty.
Zhu Di’s hand trembled. Zhu Yunwen had only been on the throne for half a year, but he had already demonstrated astonishing talents in governing:
With his New Military Policy, he had won the hearts of the military with his upright and noble tactics.
With “Cats Theory” he had captured the hearts of the literati and scholars across the country.
It was heard that the court would soon implement a Single Whip Law, reforming agricultural taxes. At that time, the hearts of the people would undoubtedly be won over.
There were signs that Zhu Yunwen was dismantling the barriers of commerce. Zhang Bing in Beiping had dared to remove the restrictions on merchants’ household registrations, which was a sign. Once implemented, it would undoubtedly receive strong support from the merchant class.
In just half a year, Zhu Yunchen had made multiple moves and achieved victories on various fronts.
If the military, scholars, people, and merchants all submitted to Emperor Jianwen, who could contend against him in the world?
Zhu Di felt a bitter taste. Could it be that his father was not wrong, and Zhu Yunwen would be the great emperor of the Ming Empire?
Dao Yan sensed Zhu Di’s hesitation and stepped forward, adding, “His Majesty entrusted me to deliver a message to Your Highness.”
Zhu Di put down “Cats Theory” and shook his head, saying with resignation, “Forget it, I have lost to him! This world belongs to Zhu Yunwen! I accept it. Tomorrow, I will willingly bind myself in the capital and submit to whatever consequences may follow.”
Dao Yan’s face tightened. He understood Zhu Di’s temperament, disposition, and way of thinking. He knew that Zhu Di would not easily admit defeat or submit. Approaching the desk, he said solemnly, “The message entrusted by His Majesty is this: ‘Uncle Yan, I need you, and the Ming Dynasty needs you. I wonder if the Fourth Uncle has the courage to join me in overcoming obstacles and forging a path that has never been seen in history?'”
Zhu Di looked at Dao Yan in astonishment and asked, “Did the Emperor really say that?”
Dao Yan nodded with a smile.
Zhu Di furrowed his brow and asked, “What is this unprecedented path?”
Dao Yan shook his head and sighed, “This monk doesn’t know, but in the Emperor’s presence, I saw a map of the world.”
“A map of the world?”
Zhu Di looked puzzled.
Dao Yan said seriously, “In that map of the world, the vastness of our Ming Dynasty was just one region among many in the universe. The scale of the universe was awe-inspiring. Although I don’t know how the Emperor obtained such a map, I believe it is related to the unprecedented path!”
Zhu Di was deeply shocked. The Ming Dynasty’s territory alone spanned nine million square kilometers. How could such a vast and boundless land be only a small region in the universe?
Was this true?
Wasn’t the Ming Dynasty the largest kingdom in the world?
Dao Yan advised, “If Your Highness doesn’t believe it, you can go to the capital and inquire with the Emperor. I can sense that in the Emperor’s mind, there is a grand chessboard, and that is the true unprecedented great cause!”
Zhu Di looked deeply at Dao Yan and slowly said, “I underestimated him. Well, now I have no other way to go, do I? Although the Three Guards are loyal to me, if I ask them to go against the court, I’m afraid no one will obey. Besides, there are Ping’an and Shengyong in Beiping, and there are Qu Neng, Guo Ying, Geng Bingwen, and Tie Xuan around. Ha, his plan is already in motion. Even if I have the intention to take action, I am powerless.”
“I, Zhu Di, submit!”
“I, Zhu Di, honor him as the Emperor!”
“I, Zhu Di, will entrust the rest of my life to follow the Emperor and forge an unprecedented path!”
With tears in his eyes, Dao Yan knelt down and pay respect according to the court’s regulations, and the proper protocols for officials.: “I greet the King of Yan.”
At this moment, he was the Hanlin Academician Expositor-in-waiting Yao Guangxiao, he was the King of Yan Zhu Di, and he was the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yunwen!
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