Reborn After Widowhood – Chapter 23
In mid Seventh Month, Chen Tingjian’s apology memorial was sent to the Imperial Study Room along with Hua Yang’s three family letters.
Emperor Jingshun first picked up his daughter’s three letters home. When he saw the “Dear Father Emperor” on the first letter, Emperor Jingshun smiled happily.
In Fifth Month, his daughter also wrote letters back, one to the empress and one to the crown prince, but none to him. Although the letter to the empress also mentioned her concern for him, Emperor Jingshun still felt a little uncomfortable.
He didn’t have many children. In total, he had two sons and two daughters, born to the Empress and the Guifei respectively.
These four children, apart from having different expectations for his sons, the one Emperor Jingshun loved most was actually his youngest daughter Hua Yang.
The empress was a rare beauty even in place like the palace. Hua Yang’s beauty was even better than the empress. She had been known to be charming and cute since she was a child, the type of person whose beauty made others concerned that even if she slapped someone in anger, they would worry whether her hand might hurt from the impact.
In Emperor Jingshun’s eyes, his daughter was like a fairy fruit that could make people forget their worries and refresh themselves. No matter what headache or trouble he had, as long as he saw his daughter, his body and mind would feel comfortable.
When she was a child, his daughter was very attached to him. She always liked to run to him to play. When she called Father Emperor, the sound was better than a rare skylark in the cage.
Unfortunately, later in a drunken stupor, he forcefully indulged a palace maid, and it was later discovered that his daughter might have caught him in that act.
From then on, his daughter seldom came to him. Emperor Jingshun pretended not to know the truth, but in fact he was ashamed to take the initiative to look for his daughter again.
But Hua Yang was still his favorite child.
“Send these two letters to the Empress and the Crown Prince.”
Emperor Jingshun compared the thickness of the three family letters and found that the one given to him was the most weighty. He smiled and handed the other two letters to the eunuch who was serving next to him.
The eunuch went out with the letter. Emperor Jingshun cut the envelope and took out the letter paper.
Looking at it, Emperor Jingshun frowned, put down his daughter’s letter for the time being, and opened Chen Tingjian’s memorial.
Now Emperor Jingshun finally understood. It turned out that Chen Tingjian’s sister-in-law had embezzled more than 20,000 taels of silver and some lands and shops behind the family’s back.
In addition to writing an apology memorial, Chen Tingjian also sent a bamboo trunk containing the gold, silver and jewelry that Qi shi had embezzled, as well as land deeds and house deeds.
During the late emperor’s reign, corrupt officials were in power, and the treasury was unable to make ends meet all year round. After Emperor Jingshun ascended the throne, he vigorously punished corrupt officials and reused capable ministers to improve people’s livelihood. The treasury’s accounts looked better, but the court’s expenses in all aspects were still tight. Now he got more than 20,000 yuan for free, even if it was only a small number compared to the national needs, Emperor Jingshun was very happy. Those officials and gentry below, who had money but refused to help the court share its worries, and instead honored others in private, didn’t it still end up in his hands?
As for that Qi shi woman, Emperor Jingshun didn’t take it seriously at all.
Emperor Jingshun summoned a eunuch responsible for transcribing, and dictated the reply for Chen Tingjian.
The first matter, for every official involved in those bribes, considering that the amount of bribery from each official was not substantial, Emperor Jingshun decided to demote each official by two ranks and impose a fine ten times the amount of the bribe to serve as a warning to others. As for the local landlords and gentry, each head of the household shall be fined twenty strokes of the cane and a similar fine of ten times the amount of the bribe.
In this way, Emperor Jingshun would be able to earn back more than 200,000 taels of silver for the national treasury just by punishing the relevant officials and gentry related to the Chen family.
The second matter, Emperor Jingshun praised Chen Tingjian for placing righteousness before family, taking the initiative to plead guilty, and his merits in flood control. Emperor Jingshun reassured Chen Tingjian that he should not blame himself too much.
The third matter, according to the law, Qi shi was guilty of corruption and unfilial piety to her mother-in-law and should be hanged. The Chen family could just hand over Qi shi and her accomplices to the Lingzhou prefect’s office. However, Chen Tingshi was not strict in governing the family, which was a family matter of the Chen family. As the elder brother, Chen Tingjian could discipline and punish him on his own to prevent him from doing it again in the future.
“Your Majesty is benevolent. Cabinet Elder Chen will definitely burst into tears after receiving your decree.”
The senior eunuch Maflattered with a smile.
Emperor Jingshun touched his beard. Chen Tingjian was the pillar of the country. Naturally, he would not punish him for such a trivial matter.
After the business was settled, Emperor Jingshun continued to read his daughter’s family letters. He saw that it was all about Qi shi‘s corruption and the disaster in Shiqiao Town. She only asked him to take care of himself near the end.
Such a family letter was tasteless.
Emperor Jingshun went to the Empress’s Fengyi Palace.
Empresswas reading her daughter’s letter so seriously that she didn’t even notice Emperor Jingshun coming in.
Emperor Jingshun was already in his early fifties, but Empress Qi was only thirty-five years old. She not only maintained the beauty of her youth, but also had the charm of a mature woman. It was precisely because of her beauty that Emperor Jingshun canonized her, this new favorite who had just entered the palace, as the empress after the post had been vacant for many years.
“What’s written in it that make you smiles like eating honey.”
Emperor Jingshun sat next to his wife. If Empress Qi observed carefully, she would find a trace of envy on his face.
But at this moment, Empress Qi was only thinking about her daughter and son-in-law. She smiled and moved the letter towards her husband emperor: “Since Hua Yang got married, every time she entered the palace, she always complained to me that the Prince Consort is vulgar and insensitive. But now this young couple finally got together.”
Emperor Jingshun narrowed his eyes slightly and saw what his daughter said in the letter: “The two brothers-in-law are literati. It was already difficult to walk alone in the wind and rain, and there was not much spare energy to take care of their wives. However, Prince Consort carried me on his back like walking on flat ground. Daughter only then realized, martial artist has its own benefit.”
The simple narrative did reveal a bit of the sweetness from their little daughter.
Emperor Jingshun also smiled. He naturally hoped that his daughter and her prince consort would love each other and live happily.
The emperor and empress read the letter side by side, chatted about the Chen family’s affairs, and finally the topic returned to their daughter again. Emperor Jingshun stroked his beard and said: “Lingzhou is a remote place after all, and the town is even more impoverished. It’s very inconvenient for Hua Yang to live there. When Prince Consort finish his mourning period,will immediately transfer him back to the capital, then Hua Yang You can come back soon.”
Empress Qi thought for a moment and said softly: “Your Majesty, Cabinet Elder Chen’s family are genuinely filial people. When news of the funeral came at the beginning of the year, many people speculated that Cabinet Elder Chen would find a way to stay in the capital. However, Cabinet Elder Chen went to the palace to resign without hesitation, and returned home as fast as an arrow. This time, the couple will definitely stay in mourning in their hometown. Although the three brothers only have to serve for one year, they probably do not want to leave the two elders behind and return to the capital to become officials. ”
Emperor Jingshun: “What do you mean?”
Empress Qi smiled and said: “Officials in mourning usually report to the court before the mourning period is over, requesting that the court arrange their official positions in a timely manner. Why don’t we wait and see what the Prince Consort and his brothers suggest in their reports? If they wish to return to the capital immediately, you can grant their request. If they prefer to stay in Lingzhou for the convenience of showing filial piety to their elders, it might be a good idea to prepare three vacant positions for them in Lingzhou. It will also be beneficial for the three young brothers to have one or two years of experience in the local government.”
Emperor Jingshun: “If that’s the case, wouldn’t Hua Yang have to stay outside for two more years?”
Empress Qi: “An additional one year and three months, and they can return to the capital in the summer after next year. She is now the daughter-in-law of the Chen family. She has to mourn for a whole year. Staying an extra year and a half will allow her to share the honorable title of being a dutiful daughter-in-law with the other two sisters-in-law. Why not do it?”
Emperor Jingshun: “Okay, let’s send more rewards over there. We can’t let her suffer.”
Empress Qi was not worried. The Chen family would not dare to wrong her daughter.
The Crown Prince was studying with his teacher. Although this teacher was not as strict as Cabinet Elder Chen, according to the rules, no one could disturb the class unless something serious happened.
Towards noon, the class finally ended.
The ten-year-old crown prince leaned back on his chair and stretched his waist.
The teacher glanced at him and did not criticize the crown prince’s indecent manners like Cabinet Elder Chen, only cleared the table and bowed before leaving.
After the teacher left, the crown prince’s eldest companion, eunuch Cao Li, walked in with a smile and bent over.
The crown prince’s eyebrows raised slightly: “What happy event makes you smile like this?”
Cao Li immediately took out a letter from his back and said as if offering a treasure: “Your Highness, the Princess has sent another letter!”
The crown prince’s eyes lit up, he couldn’t wait to get out of his seat, and grabbed his sister’s letter.
His father emperor and mother empress taught him strictly and never allowed him to leave the palace. If he wanted to know anything outside the palace, he had to ask the eunuchs around him. His sister was the first one to write to him outside.
The crown prince missed his sister very much, and also wanted to know if his sister had encountered anything new in Lingzhou.
He sat down by the window and read the letter eagerly.
Cao Li stood diagonally opposite. Seeing his young master gradually frowning, he suddenly felt worried that his young master would be in a bad mood and become difficult to serve.
Fortunately, the crown prince’s eyebrows soon relaxed again, and he finally looked out the window, full of thought.
Cao Li asked curiously: “Your Highness, what are you thinking about?”
The crown prince came to his senses and asked him, “Have you ever seen a flood?”
Cao Li was startled: “Why did Your Highness suddenly mention floods? Is there a flood in Lingzhou? Is the Princess injured?”
The prince shook his head and handed him the letter.
Cao Li took a quick look and patted his chest several times: “Fortunately, Princess is an auspicious person and did not encounter the flood.”
Cao Li was eighteen years old. Originally his family encountered a flood and his parents died. He then wandered to the capital and was taken to the palace to be a eunuch.
Since the crown prince was interested, Cao Li talked about the tragedy of the flood.
Crown Prince: “Doesn’t the imperial court allocate money every year specifically to build river embankments?”
Cao Li: “They are all used to build large rivers. In rural areas, the small stretches of rivers hardly face flooding disasters for many years. It only happens occasionally during very rainy years. Reinforcing the embankments isn’t cost-effective.”
Prince: “What if Father Emperor says it has to be repair?”
Cao Li looked outside, leaned into his ear and whispered: “It depends on whether the treasury has that much money.”
The crown prince pursed his lips. The treasury was not rich, and he often saw his father worrying about money.
Cao Li: “Are you worried about the Princess? You don’t have to. Look at the Princess, she still has the heart to praise Prince Consort. It means that the flood over there is not serious.”
The crown prince looked at the letter again, and a tall and heroic figure appeared in his mind. That was Chen Jingzong, the fourth son of Cabinet Elder Chen, who was also his brother-in-law.
The crown prince didn’t meet prince consort very often, and the impression prince consort gave him was that he was pretty good-looking and could barely match his sister’s appearance.
“Your Highness, it’s time for lunch.” Cao Li reminded with a smile.
The crown prince hummed and took the lead in walking out.
The lunch in the East Palace was very sumptuous. After all, even if the treasury was empty, the nobles in the palace would not be treated harshly. The crown prince’s meal consisted of eight dishes and two soups.
His sister wanted him to be strong, so the crown prince ate an extra bowl of rice. Deep down in his heart, he also wanted to grow up into a brave man who could walk smoothly on the mountain road in the heavy rain.
After the meal, he had half an hour’s rest. The crown prince thought for a while and went to find his mother.
“Mother, did Sister also write to you?”
Empress Qi: “Yes, do you want to see it?”
Crown Prince: “Well, the letter to me is only one page long.”
Empress Qi smiled and asked the palace maid to fetch her daughter’s letter, which was three pages full.
Among Hua Yang’s three letters, the one to her father emperor only mentioned business matters, the one to her younger brother only related to family matters, and the one to her mother empress contained both.
Empress Qi took the opportunity to teach her son a lesson: “Cabinet Elder Chen is a simple and upright man. Even if something like this happens at home, he would rather expose the family’s shortcomings than help his brothers cover it up.”
The crown prince read the letter and said nothing.
Empress Qi: “Although he is mourning at home, when the common people encountered calamity, he sets an example regardless of the danger and advances and retreats with the people. He is a good official who truly loves and protects the people.”
The crown prince finally said: “Mother Empress knows people well and chooses a good teacher for this son.”
Empress Qi smiled, touched her son’s head and said: “Mother Empress knows that Cabinet Elder Chen is a bit strict. But since ancient times, strict teachers have produced great disciples. You just need to remember that Cabinet Elder is entrusted by Father Emperor and Mother Empress, and even if he lectures you, it’s all for your own good.”
The crown prince lowered his eyes: “Son understands.”
Empress Qi put away the letter and said with concern: “Just rest here for a while, and go directly to class later.”
The crown prince obediently followed the maid to wash his hands and face.
Lying in bed, the prince was not sleepy at all. He thought about what the flood in Shiqiao Town was like, and then thought about the extremely stern Cabinet Elder Chen.
His sister said that the Chen family’s Zhuangyuan and Tanhua were both weak and almost fell down while walking on the mountain road. As for Cabinet Elder Chen, who was both weak and old, did he also fall down?
The image of Cabinet Elder Chen falling into a mud pit and unable to get up appeared before his eyes. The crown prince smiled and fell asleep contentedly.