The Human Emperor Chapter 648
Chapter 648: Audience At Court I
Chapter 648: Audience at Court (I)
Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
In the generation of Wang Gen's father, the Wang lineage had enjoyed the praise of the world, his father being praised as Duke Jiu of the Great Tang, as the Sage Minister. But in the generation of Wang Gen and Wang Yan, the sun set below the river. They could not compare to the dazzling brilliance of their father.
This was the source of the deep pain in Wang Gen's heart.
But now, the Wang Clan had finally produced one Wang Chong.
In the war of the southwest, Wang Chong's body had exploded with a light that reached to the heavens. Even Wang Gen dared not directly look at it, much less believe it!
After so long, the Wang Clan was finally having a resurgence!
"Imperial Censor Duan"
Wang Chong had also not expected that while he had been sleeping, so much had happened in the Imperial Court. Wang Chong had some impressions of that old imperial censor Duan Cao who had defended him.
He was the patriarch of the capital's Duan Clan and the reason it was known as a clan of imperial censors. His reputation was extremely high.
Wang Chong remembered that in his last life, Duan Cao had retired a very long time ago, no longer concerning himself with secular affairs. But in this life, he had rushed to the court for Wang Chong's sake to argue with King Qi and the other ministers.
"When there's time, your nephew will pay a personal visit to thank him!" Wang Chong said.
"There's no need!"
To Wang Chong's surprise, Wang Gen shook his head and immediately rejected the proposal. He took a sip of tea and slowly placed it back on its saucer before explaining.
"The old censor is a true upright minister. It's precisely because of this that the Duan Clan is known as a clan of imperial censors. The previous Emperor even rewarded him with the iron ticket, the golden book1. In addition, the old censor has always conducted himself according to the matter at hand, not the person. He helped you not because he particularly favored you, but because it would be of benefit to the country. Thus, he could stand before the assembled officials of the court and chastise and rebuke his descendant, also strongly recommending you and supporting you.
(TN: The iron ticket and golden book both refer to the same kind of honor conferred by the Emperor. This was a sheet of iron which recorded two things: the deed that prompted the reward and the specific privilege or reward being conferred. In some cases, this could be a one-time pardon from the death penalty. It was called the golden book because the engraved words were filled with gold.)
"If you were to visit him to thank him, the old censor might immediately decide to rescind his decision and stand before the Sage Emperor to reprimand you! And even if you did want to meet him, you wouldn't be able to. The old censor has already shut his gates, refusing all guests at the door. Unless he wants to come out himself, no one will be able to see him."
Wang Gen stroked his beard and chuckled.
Wang Chong was dazed, his heart instantly filling with respect.
The old censor was an authentic honest official! Any kind of thanks would truly be too much.
"The friendship of mean men is like sweet wine, that of gentlemen like tasteless water2. Since the old censor is not willing to see visitors, I will write a letter to express my thanks," Wang Chong said.
(TN: The quote is from the Zhuangzi, Chapter 20. The claim is that mean men will only seek friendship for their own benefits, as people drink sweet wine for its taste, eventually leading to the end of the friendship. Since the friendship between gentlemen is not founded on personal gain but heartfelt interest, such friendships will be close and long-lasting.)
"Mm. This is acceptable."
Wang Gen muttered to himself for a while before accepting the idea. In the court, the old censor had argued using reasoning. By using a letter to thank him, Wang Chong could form a relationship through letters and perhaps form a timeless friendship.
"That's right, His Majesty has summoned you to the Imperial Palace to be rewarded three days from now. With regards to the protocol during a court audience, you absolutely can't get careless. Otherwise, even after you receive the reward, you'll be criticized by all the officials and charged with impropriety. This will be extremely disadvantageous for your future prospects," Wang Gen sternly said.
The reward Wang Chong was receiving this time was no trifling matter. The Sage Emperor himself was bestowing the reward, meaning it held a completely different significance. This was the beneficent favor of the heavens, a most incredible honor.
"I've already arranged a person for you. When the time comes, he'll inform you of all the expected protocol. You must not treat this lightly."
"Haha, there's no need. King Song has already arranged someone for me," Wang Chong said with a faint smile.
In this aspect, King Song truly had some foresight. Although he himself wasn't in the capital, he had already arranged matters so that Wang Chong didn't need to worry.
"Oh? That's even better!"
A hint of surprise flashed through Wang Gen's eyes as he nodded and smiled.
For minor matters like protocol during the court audience, he had not communicated with King Song beforehand. Since King Song had already made arrangements, nothing could be better.
Wang Gen quickly left the Wang Clan Residence.
Soon after he left, Wang Chong sent someone to bring that old official from the Chamberlain of Dependencies that King Song had spoken of. In these next few days, Wang Chong spent his time in the residence diligently studying the protocol for a court audience and accepting a reward.
Although several days had passed since Wang Chong's return, the celebratory mood in the capital continued unabated, even intensifying.
At the ends of the streets and in the taverns and tea houses, everyone was talking about the young hero of the Great Tang. The argument in the court and the grudges between the Wang Clan and King Qi and the Yao Clan were also the subject of much conversation.
And every little bit of information about Wang Chong's past, including how he had seized an ordinary girl, was dug up. His hedonistic past was now regarded as Wang Chong biding his time and hiding his edge.
The circumstances of Wang Chong's grand battle with Dalun Ruozan, Huoshu Huicang, and the Mengshe Zhao generals had also been revealed in vivid detail and were now the topics of the capital's storytellers.
In the mouths of the storytellers, Wang Chong had become a celestial who could singlehandedly block one thousand, ten thousand, soldiers, whose touch could turn stone to gold.
But when all the legends were discussed, everyone turned to a single topic, that of Wang Chong's reward. Even the foreign emissaries in the capital and the Hu merchants entered the conversations here to inquire as to the sort of reward the Sage Emperor would bestow on Wang Chong.
"If it were up to me, given Young Master Wang's massive achievements, he should at least be made a general."
"Hah, a general means nothing. In my view, he should be made a noble. Only a noble title would be acceptable to the people."
"But the Imperial Court hasn't conferred a noble title in a long time, and those aren't easy to come by. The Bureau of Rites has even rejected the title of viscount, much less anything else."
"Haha, it's precisely because there are so few that he should be conferred one. Young Master Wang's feats aren't something any normal person could pull off. If he's not conferred a noble title, how can His Majesty's beneficent favor be expressed? Oh, right, if His Majesty were to confer a noble title, what do you think it would be?"
"In my view, it would at least have to be viscount."
"How could viscount be enough? It should at least be count to make him equal to the important officials of the court."
These conversations were being conducted all over the capital. In the founding period of the Great Tang, rewards were brashly distributed, but as time went on, the conferment of noble titles became much more restricted.
In the current government, titles were distributed very prudently. Even many first-rank officials were only conferred the title of count.
Thus, in the capital, 'count' had become an invisible dividing line. Everything below count was easy, but above count was incredibly difficult, far more difficult than it had ever been several centuries ago.
The masses speculated that Wang Chong's reward would at least be enough to be made a count, but anything further wouldn't be easy. The Bureau of Rites could even possibly reject the title of count.
Three days passed in the blink of an eye. As Wang Chong's audience with the Sage Emperor approached, the capital's excitement and jubilation reached their apex.
As the gate opened and Wang Chong emerged from the Wang Clan Residence, dressed in a bright red robe and cap, the crowd instantly exploded with cheers.
"Wang Chong! Wang Chong! Wang Chong!"
Countless people of the capital had gathered outside the Wang Clan's gate. Man, woman, old, young, merchants, servants all of them were shouting until their faces were red, waves of sound coming one after the other.
Seeing the excited crowd, even the servants and maids of the Wang Clan began to grow excited.
Unlike the servants and maids of the Wang Clan, the gazes of Bai Siling, Zhao Yatong, and Huang Qian-er were focused on Wang Chong.
As friends, the trio had come to the Wang Clan very early in the morning to see off Wang Chong as he set off to receive his reward from the Sage Emperor.
Although this wasn't their first meeting, when they saw Wang Chong's sword-like brows, bright eyes, erect posture, and crimson ceremonial robe, all this making for an elegant and handsome figure, the three couldn't help but gawk, their eyes lighting up.
Wang Chong on the battlefield and Wang Chong wearing a ceremonial robe gave off two completely different feelings. If Wang Chong on the battlefield was an invincible war god, the Wang Chong before them had retracted his heroism, hidden his edge, and instantly transformed into a cultured and refined scholar.
Though it was a different feeling, it was even more alluring.
Bai Siling glared at Wang Chong and impolitely said, "Hmph, don't go looking at random girls on the road, or you might end up losing your eyes."
Zhao Yatong said nothing, but her face was ice-cold as she took the red-tasseled spear and flipped it around, slamming the tip into the firm ground in front of the Wang Clan's gate. Crackcrack! The sound of splintering stones was suffused with a threatening air.
Huang Qian-er was similarly silent, her face devoid of emotion, but the silver sword on her back was threateningly buzzing in its sheath.
"With all of you here, I wouldn't dare to mess around," Wang Chong said with a chuckle.
"That's enough. Chong-er, it's about time to leave. You must not be late for an audience with His Majesty."
Madam Wang walked up from behind, internally smiling. She had also once been a girl, so it wasn't possible for her to not understand what these three were thinking.
Rumble! A gorgeous carriage parked itself on the side of the street. It had been dispatched by the Bureau of Rites.
Wang Chong boarded the carriage, beginning his journey to the Imperial Palace.
Around fifteen minutes later, Wang Chong finally arrived. This was not his first time entering the palace, but the feeling now was completely different.
The golden walls were vast and majestic, and the soldiers of the Imperial Army and palace guards stood solemnly at the base of the wall, their armor shining. Different from usual, they had red bands of celebration tied across their left and right shoulders.
And many officials from the Bureau of Rites could be seen amongst the Imperial soldiers and palace guards.
This court audience was no minor affair. Everyone knew that the Sage Emperor was certain to bestow a most generous reward on Wang Chong. This was plainly visible from the solemnity of the ceremony.
The opulent carriage stopped in front of the nine internal gates.
Wang Chong descended from the carriage and was greeted by the golden palace gate. Two officials from the Bureau of Rites dressed in crimson ceremonial robes stood to the left and right, their heads slightly lowered.
Although they seemed unconcerned, Wang Chong could tell that this pair were constantly observing him.
King Song was right.
Wang Chong smiled but didn't say anything.
Many eyes would be closely watching the audience and conferment ceremony, every step and every moment. The slightest slip of protocol would be noted and become material for future impeachment and criticism.
Many officials in their first audience didn't know of this and ended up being attacked by the Bureau of Rites, falling short at the finish line.
Wang Chong had already learned all this from the old official from the Chamberlain of Dependencies.
1. The iron ticket and golden book both refer to the same kind of honor conferred by the Emperor. This was a sheet of iron which recorded two things: the deed that prompted the reward and the specific privilege or reward being conferred. In some cases, this could be a one-time pardon from the death penalty. It was called the golden book because the engraved words were filled with gold.
2. The quote is from the Zhuangzi, Chapter 20. The claim is that mean men will only seek friendship for their own benefits, as people drink sweet wine for its taste, eventually leading to the end of the friendship. Since the friendship between gentlemen is not founded on personal gain but heartfelt interest, such friendships will be close and long-lasting.