The speaker was a young woman, dressed in a plain purple robe one could find anywhere on the streets of Jiang’an. She carried no tally or permit to enter the Imperial Palace, nor was a single adornment in her possession that signified her identity.
However, that stern word uttered from her lips was more than sufficient to quell the quarrel of the Imperial Court. Even if one were to disregard the thrown spear and its strength, that plain dress coupled with the beautiful appearance was capable of striking great fear into the hearts of the officials of Great Yong.
Simply because she was the Empress.
Rising from the ashes of common birth to soar into the air as a phoenix, the empress had begun her life as a common servant in an ordinary household.
Obtaining a chance encounter after being thrown out of the manor for a simple mistake, the commoner girl had ascended to become a powerful cultivator in merely fifty years.
With a coincidental rescuing of the emperor, the aspiring youth and commoner girl had become entangled in a cultivation legend that many current youths dreamed of attaining.
Battling together, braving storms and tribulations together, and sharing fortunes until the youth had risen into the Emperor, and the commoner girl the Empress.
Since then, the empress’ life story had engendered an unparalleled influence over the hearts of the citizens, and her every word was obeyed without a single doubt, nor did anyone object.
Simply because the emperor was crazily in love with the empress.
Even if his elders forced him to sleep with a concubine every now and then, the emperor primarily resided in the empress’ courtyard, hence Wei Xuan’s snarky insult whenever the ruler of Great Yong complained about his lack of prodigious offspring.
If the emperor’s imperial edict could cause winds to storm and rain to fall in the entirety of the nation, the empress’ words were never disobeyed by the emperor.
Hence, that single word uttered by the young woman instantly caused the emperor to withdraw his attack, waving his right sleeve to dissipate the scarlet longsword.
Pierced by her glare, Wei Xuan similarly allowed the silver pole to dissipate after hesitating for a moment.
The officials made way, returning to their original positions with suppressed complaints. The emperor sank into his chair and leaned his head against the back of his right hand as the woman slowly strode to stand a few meters before the throne.
Watching those thin red lips begin to part, the three hundred officials and one emperor all simultaneously groaned in their hearts, each swallowing a bitter taste in their mouths.
Divine punishment was incoming, and could not be delayed.
“If this is the ordinary conduct of the Imperial Court if bengong isn’t present,” the empress began, her eyebrow raised as she stared at each and every official.
“Then bengong must declare that bengong is not satisfied at all, and completely disappointed with you lot.”
Hearing the forceful assertation of her identity, the emperor and officials felt numbness creep up their limbs. Indeed, just from how she spoke, the empress was infuriated.
“This is the Hour of the Dragon, not the Hour of the Monkey.” The empress paused, suddenly whirling to face the emperor.
“Lu Jing Yi, tell bengong what should happen during these two sacred hours? Tell bengong, what were your very intentions and regulations regarding these two sacred hours?”
Everyone in the Immortal Court wiped beads of cold sweat dotting their brow, be it the palace servants, officials, or the emperor. The emperor’s birth name was a taboo of Great Yong, capable of warranting a horrible death upon a casual remark.
Nobody was permitted to identify the emperor by his birth name, even the Royal Ancestors, yet the empress had spoken with such forceful tone.
“This…ah! Hong Yu, can’t we speak of this later?” The emperor pleaded, extending his arms before his face in a defensive position.
“Technically, you aren’t allowed to preside over the court, what if the public-ah!”
Without waiting for the emperor to finish, the empress directly ascended the steps to the golden throne, a slender fist swinging down from above to collide directly below the emperor’s crown.
The emperor clutched his forehead with both hands as he curled up into a fetal position on the throne, the empress continuing to slough hits without a single care.
“How many times have bengong told you?” The empress admonished, landing a solid fist onto the emperor’s left shoulder. “When bengong asks, you answer!”
“Ack, ah, ah!” the emperor cried, waving his arms to dislodge her fists ramming into his body.
“This emperor designed the Hour of the Dragon to discuss official governmental affairs-ah! The Hour of the Monkey was designated to discuss festive policy with a light atmosphere!” the emperor shouted as he attempted to mitigate the damage done to his face as much as possible.
“Then. What. Exactly. Were. You. Doing!?”
With a fierce roar, the empress knocked aside the emperor’s outstretched arms. Her fingers lodging onto either cheek, she forcefully tugged as she berated the pitiful ruler.
A low-ranking official failed to properly contain his emotions, a muffled snort escaping from the gaps of his fingers. The empress instantly paused to fiercely glare at the three hundred repenting officials, before continuing to berate the deflated emperor.
“Instead of discussing policies with your officials, you’re even fighting with one of them! Furthermore, the cause of such violent conflict was such an inconsequential act.”
The empress pinpointed Wei Xuan’s position. “You there, third-ranked minister Wei, step out. Bengong has some words to share with you.”
“Greeting Her Imperial Highness.”
Stepping out to stand before the empress, Wei Xuan dipped his head into a slow bow.
“Speak. Why did you think the emperor’s proposal was so unacceptable that you had to initiate a violent conflict?”
Faced with the empress’ inquiry, Wei Xuan slightly raised his gaze to find the emperor hastily gazing at him and waving his fingers as if to convey a hidden message. His brows furrowing for an instant in confusion, the minister smoothed his expression, before replying in a respectful manner.
“Answering Her Imperial Highness,” he began,
“His Imperial Majesty vowed to wed my fourth daughter to Prince Huan as a cefei to punish this minister. However, this minister must object as such a proposal will merely harm my daughter, never benefit.”
The empress merely raised a brow, indicating for him to continue. Wei Xuan lowered himself into another bow.
“To many others, marrying as a cefei of an Imperial Prince of Great Yong is a true honor,” he spoke with a sonorous voice, raising his head and turning to face the other ministers.
“However, though the citizens and Fellows may not be aware, my fourth daughter’s ailment will only trigger a living hell for the poor girl if she is to be forced into such a predicament. Hence, this minister could only demand for His Imperial Majesty to revoke the edict.”
“Fellow Wei speaks with great honor and compassion,” an aged official standing at the front row stepped forth and bowed.
“He speaks not to flatter to Her Imperial Highness nor flaunt his position, but merely attempts to protect his child to his utmost ability, even defying His Imperial Majesty’s decree. As the Right Imperial Censor, this one finds Fellow Wei’s actions virtuous and magnanimous. May Her Imperial Highness not punish Fellow Wei over such an inconsequential matter!”
“May Her Imperial Highness not punish Fellow Wei over such an inconsequential matter!”
With the Right Imperial Censor spearheading the effort, the two-hundred and ninety some officials all lowered into a deep bow, their voices combining into a powerful chorus. Faced with such a sight, the emperor could only wistfully smile, and the empress revealed a scowl of discomfort.
This act of treacherous unison, she detested within the depths of her heart.
“All of you officials merely squabble and cover for one another,” she complained with an unresigned tone.
“No actual policy done, so what’s the point of the daily court sessions?”
“Only in times of great peace can there by no policy enacted by the government,” Wei Xuan responded with a smile.
“Otherwise, the government would quickly lose the public’s support, similarly to how it is impossible to reverse the river’s current. Furthermore, constantly enacting policy is not necessarily an apt method of maintaining a healthy empire.”
The empress flutter her eyelashes, her gaze lowered as she pondered for a few moments. Finally, she strode towards the rear exit of the Imperial Court, her voice resounding within the silent hall.
“Third-ranked Minister Wei shall kneel in the Imperial Court from now until the beginning of the Hour of the Goat. Lu Jing Yi, you are not permitted to step into my chambers until tomorrow. Bengong permits you to frolic around in Madam Qin’s courtyard if you wish.”
With the empress’s departure, the single emperor and three hundred officials of Great Yong all heaved simultaneous sighs of relief.
Rising from his throne, the emperor quickly descended the steps to pat Wei Xuan on the back.
The minister and emperor locked gazes for a brief moment, and both could not help but reveal wry smiles.
“This emperor shall retract his imperial edict.”
“This minister shall retract his insult towards His Imperial Majesty’s lineage.”