Chapter 208.5: Imperial Cour
While Zhang and the beauties were swept up by one event after the other which ended up propelling them into an unexpected adventure at sea, countless events occurred back on land. Many thousands of miles away from Razor Clam Island, from the Blood Coral Cove and from the Chaotic Eastern Sea, back on the Wulin Continent, an eerie peace had swept across the land. Like the calm before a mighty storm, strife and conflict disappeared without a trace.
The most peaceful of places was actually the southern region of the continent, the lands of the of Aurora Empire. After its unification, the Aurora Empire focused all of its attention on strengthening its borders and attempt to stabilize its interior.
Day and night, Zhang’s foster father, Jian Wei worked, to ensure that the land would not splinter back into the state that it had been before.
“The beginning of an empire is always the most important. If we build a good foundation at the start, then we won’t have to worry about not having a legacy to leave behind.” Jian Wei would often say to his advisers when they were about to complaining about being overworked.
Although he was not as adept at commanding an army and conquering lands as Zhang, Jian Wei was extremely gifted when it came to governing his people. Had it not been for this particular skill of his, the Aurora Province would have never grown powerful and wealthy enough to maintain its vast armies and as a result, the creation of a third empire within the Wulin Continent would have remain but a fruitless fantasy.
That is to say, a countless number of factors had contributed to the creation of the Aurora Empire, had even one of these factors been missing then nothing would have been accomplished. If Jian Wei had not met Zhang then he would have more than likely lost his life at sea, had he not selected Zhang as his successor then there the Red Mist Province, and many of the other provinces wouldn’t have fallen so easily, had Zhang not recruited Gan Ning to join his ranks then Jian Wei would have lost his life within the Beast’s Gorge against the Heavenly Sword Army.
Sometimes when he reminisced about the past, Jian Wei would often think of the what ifs and in the end he would always come to the conclusion that he had made the right choice in choosing Zhang to be his successor.
Despite what Jian Wein believed, there were countless people who thought otherwise and often rebuked his decision.
On one particular day, when thousands of officials had gathered from the four corners of the empire to attend the Aurora Empire’s first ever Imperial Court gathering.
From the smallest of offices to the most powerful of dukes, everyone who held a government position had left their duties to their subordinates and headed to the empire’s capital.
“That kid still hasn't come back yea…” A middle-aged man who wore golden robes with dragons embroidered onto them said while giving off a dominating aura, this man, of course, is Jian Wei, Emperor of the Aurora Empire.
“Your majesty, the generals and teachers from the Imperial Institute who had gone to said had relayed that his highness said he would return once he settled a few minor matters, so there is no need to worry about him.” One Jian Wei’s advisors said.
“If he isn't here then I'm sure a few good for nothing will try to cause trouble for him… Although it won't amount to much, it is still a headache for me to have to deal with it.” Jian Wei complained.
“Have preparations been made yet?” Jian Wei asked his advisor.
“Of course, your majesty all of your orders have been successfully carried out without anyone catching wind of it. Here is the information you requested.” An advisor responded as he offered up a golden colored scroll to Jian Wei.
“Good, since they’ve all gathered in one place, hopefully, a little warning will go a long way and they stop with their foolishness.” Jian Wei said.
“Your majesty it is time, all of the officials have arrived and are waiting for the court to commence.” A soldier clad in the Aurora Army’s standard white colored armor said respectfully while clasping his hand while standing in the doorway.
“Alright let's go.” Jian Wei said as he stood up from the chair that he had been sitting on and began straightening his robes, only to be swarmed by a group of beautiful young maids who quickly straightened his robes for him.
“I may never get used to this…” He thought with a sigh. After becoming emperor, rather than enjoying the benefits that came with it, Jian Wei felt rather bothered by the amount of attention he was getting.
In the early morning, beautiful women would wake him up and dress him for the day, delicious food would be brought for him to taste, not eat because it was unbecoming of an emperor to gorge himself. At first, a few of the maids even tried to spoon feed him however after ordering them not too many times, they finally stopped.
“Too much pampering isn't a good thing, despite what one might think…Sometimes I envy that kid, surrounding by beautiful women who he knows loves him from their heart, free to travel the world and see its splendors. Just wait till you come back… I'll give you so much work to do you won't see the light of day.” Jian Wei thought with a chuckle as the maids who had swarmed around him formed into two tidy rows by the door.
After taking a deep breath and gently slapping his face to fully wake himself up, Jian Wei proceeded toward the door where a golden sedan chair made of gold awaited him.
Carried by ten well-built men, surrounded by teams of veteran soldiers and followed by squads of beautiful maids, Jian We made his way toward the Imperial City’s main hall, the Aurora Hall.
As a tribute to the Aurora Empire’s roots, the Aurora Hall was built in a way that whenever the midday’s sun shone into it, a mesmerizing aurora would be projected onto its ceiling.
Within this majestic hall, thousands of government officials, generals, and those in power could be seen clamoring about and conversing with one another.
At first look everything appeared completely fine, however upon closer examination, one would notice that instead of a single group of people, there was clearly three distinct groups within the hall. Each group taking up a respective section of the hall.
“What did those bastards say?” One of Zhang’s core generals, a certain pirate named Gan Ning said as he could be seen standing by a few other notable generals and government officials such as, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhang Liao, Leng Zai, Sima Yi, Zhuge Liang, Ran Kaitou, Lu Xun, Xi Ning and dozens of other famous names.
“I dare them to keep talking like that.” Gan Ning said as he glanced at opposite wing of the hall.
“Those ungrateful, after his highness helped conquer the warring states and unite the land, they dare say he will usurp the throne is his majesty has a male offspring…” Guan Yu complained.
“The countless enemies we slewed on the battlefield to build this empire while they sat in the comforts of their homes and they have the balls to bring up such accusations…They’re lucky I didn't bring too many of my men with me or else I'll have their heads on spikes.” Gan Ning said angrily.
“Gan Ning, calm yourself, if you do that that then not even his highness can save you and you'll only make things worse.” Sima Yi said.
“There is a due process for everything, if you act rashly then you'll only give them the opportunity to strike. Although our side currently has control of a decent portion of the empire’s military, we can't simply go around killing people like we did on the battlefield. Also while we are in the light they are in the dark, it is hard to tell what they are up to.” Zhuge Liang said.
“As long as they do not directly threaten his majesty our emperor or his highness, Lord Zhou Zhang, then our best course of action is to wait.” Sima Yi said.
After the unification of the Warring States Region and the creation of the empire, with even with the addition of Zhang’s elite guard, the regular army under his control and the armies under the control of his trusted, generals, and other allies, Zhang had at the very most, control of roughly twenty-five percent of all of Aurora’s soldiers.
With the other seventy-five percent of the military split up between the northern lords who held roughly forty-five percent of the control over the military, and various lords who ruled lands located in what is now the center of the empire who controlled thirty percent of the military.
“As long as it is for the benefit of his highness, the southern region will offer its full support.” The sons of the duke of the south, Liu Shan and Liu Yuan aid in unison in a low tone.
Currently the Imperial Court of the Aurora Empire was split into three, with one side, the so-called Emperor’s Loyalists, advocating for Zhang’s position and military power to be stripped, while another side, the Prince’s Camp, that constant entirely of Zhang’s handpicked generals, strategists and a small number of high-ranking lords, who felt stripping Zhang of his power and rank was absurd. Lastly, there was a neutral party who had other things to occupy their time with.
Luckily for the Prince’s Camp, the northern lords were a part of the neutral party or else the disparity in military power between the two warring factions would have been too great.
At first before Zhang had gone to sea, the Emperor’s Loyalist group were very few in number but once he departed and once they began to openly advocate for the removal of his power, many individuals, mostly consisting of lords who ruled lands in the interior of the empire, who sought to possess the power that would be siphoned from Zhang for themselves, joined.
“As of now, since the Imperial Academy and his highness’s personal army and Elite Guard have return, I'm sure for the time being they won't be brave enough to openly act anymore.” Sima Yi said just the sound of someone beating a gong rang into everyone’s ears.
Before long, two rows of maids entered into the hall, leaving a trail of rose petals behind them as they proceeded forward.
“Emperor Jian Wei has arrived!” A loud and audible voice announced as Jian Wei made his way into the hall, while being surrounded by maids and soldiers.
“All hail his majesty, Emperor Jian Wei!” All of the government officials said in unison as they formed into neat and tidy rows before bowing their heads onto the marble floors.
“Let the imperial court session begin.” Jian Wei said in a powerful voice that emanated to the four corners of the hall.
“Your majesty, we from the Northern Region have brought a small gift as a show of our appreciation of what you’ve done for us.” An elderly lord garbed in expensive looking robes said respectfully as he walked out from within the rows of officials and onto the center aisle of the Aurora Hall.
“Sadly the other northern lords and myself do not have much else to offer due to the lack of resources available on our lands, but I hope this pleases you, your majesty.” The elderly lord said after the elderly lord gestured to a young looking man who looked to be his son, a team of servants entered the hall while carrying a large platform with a statue of Jian Wei smelted entirely of gold atop of it.
From a single glance, it was obvious that the statue was made by the best of the craftsman in the empire, every single line and detail was made with such accuracy that it looked lifelike. Besides from the details of the statue, its size was also something to marvel at, since it was so tall that it almost did not fit through the gates of the Aurora Hall, gates that were roughly twenty feet tall.
“Long live Emperor Jian Wei!” All of the northern lords chanted in unison as they gathered in the center aisle of the hall, prompting a wide grin to appear on Jian Wei’s face.
“A splendid gift, a splendid gift. As a show of appreciation for this gift, the northern regions will be exempt from taxes for the next three years.” Jian Wei said with a grin.
“The southern region has also brought a small token of our appreciation for his majesty.” Liu Biao said as he and his two sons, Liu Shan and Liu Yuan walked into the center aisle with a group of lords who governed the southern land, a part of this group was the lord of the Azure Rain Province and his two daughters Tian Ying and Tian Yang who had been the pair of twins that had been offered to become Zhang’s wives.
“We hope what we have brought pleases you, your majesty.” Liu Biao said as he clapped his hands and signaled for a team of men to enter into the hall. Moments later, dozens of large iron chests were carried into the Aurora Hall by large burly men.
With another clap of his hands, Liu Biao’s men opened the iron chests, revealing them to be filled to the very brim with dazzling pearls.
“We were hoping your majesty would add these pearls into the empire’s treasury so if there is ever a time of need, the empire will have vast amounts of wealth at its disposal.” Liu Yuan said while clasping his hands.
“Good, take these chests to the treasury, we will consider this as the taxes that were to be collected from the southern region for the next three years also.” Jian Wei said with a smile.
After the southern lords and northern lords, many other lords stepped forward to offer Jian Wei gifts. One such lord was Sima Yi who gifted Jian Wei the pelt of a massive white tiger.
“I gift this to you, your majesty as a reminder to every one of your benevolence. An emperor who is worthy to be compared to a tiger in terms strength an emperor who watches over all of us like a caring father.” Sima Yi said with a smile.
“A good gift, brother Sima Yi, a gift that is most befitting of our lord. Like a tiger, there is nothing that can get between his majesty and his cubs.” Zhuge Liang said with a grin, as both he and Sima Yi in an attempt to remind Jian Wei not to wrong Zhang.
“I also have a gift to offer your majesty.” A chubby middle-aged man said as walked forward, before Sima Yi and Zhuge Liang even left the center aisle.
“My men managed to find a wondrous demonic beast egg and since I heard that crown prince Zhang and his majesty are avid collectors of demonic beasts I figured who better to give it to.” The chubby middle aged man said with a smirk as he signaled for a team of men to carry in a large cage into the Aurora Hall.
“This particular demonic beast egg should hatch a demonic beast called a Blood Parasite Cuckoo Bird.” The chubby middle aged man said with a grin as a massive egg was carried in.
“Tao Qian, I believe you had an interesting little story to tell.” The chubby middle-aged man said as he gestured for one of his subordinates to work over onto the center aisle.
“It can’t be… I thought he died in the Qilin Pass…” Ran Kaitou murmured as he laid eyes on the chubby middle-aged man’s subordinate, Tao Qian, the patriarch of one of the three aristocratic families that Zhang had wiped. The same man whose family had their memories erased and were made to believe that they were Zhang’s relatives.
“If you’ll allow me to do so, Lord Zhi Fang, it is said that cuckoo birds are one of the wisest of animals, I would like to ask if your majesty knows why that is so?” Tao Qian asked in a respectful tone.
“I don’t know, why?” Jian Wei replied.
“That is because Cuckoo birds often lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and by doing so they trick the other birds into caring for their young, sometimes resulting in the death of the offspring of the other birds. Thus, in the end, the victims of the Cuckoo bird are left raising the child of another while its own child perishes as a result.” Tao Qian said.
“Your majesty we humble ask you to strip Prince Zhang of his military power, along with his rank and title. Although it was because of his efforts that resulted in the unification of Warring States Region, in the end, the one chosen by the heavens to become emperor was you your majesty, and thus it is only right for your own flesh and blood to become the next emperor. But crowning him as your heir, not only are you going against heaven’s will but you are also saddening your people, your majesty!” Lord Zhi Fang said as he kneeled onto the ground along with nearly half of the imperial court.
“For the prosperity of the empire, we also humbly ask your majesty to grace your people with an heir of your own flesh and blood. Although it may displease you, your majesty, we your loyal subjects have taken the liberty of scouring the land and gathering the most suitable of maidens who are worthy of bearing your offspring.” Lord Zhi Fang as two rows of extremely beautiful young women made their way into the Aurora Hall.
Although none of them could really compare with any of the four beauties, all of these young women were very beautiful and very desirable. Upon entering the hall, these young women caused a good few of the officials present to stand very awkwardly while trying to act natural.
“Are the lot of you trying to commit treason?!” Jian Wei roared in rage.
“Please appease your anger, your majesty!” All of the officials in the hall said in unison as they all fell to their knees.
“They unexpectedly acted very quickly.” Sima Yi said in a whisper to Zhuge Liang.
“If only I could pick one or two out of that bunch.” Gan Ning who said kneeling not too far away from Sima Yi and Zhuge Liang whispered to Ran Kaitou and Leng Zai while giving them a thumbs up.
“Knowing that kid, even if I ended up with a few kids of my own, he would end up helping me take care of them once I’m gone rather than trying to harm them for self-gain. I can’t believe you would say such a thing about him.” He could say in an infuriated voice as he looked across the Aurora Hall.
“Your majesty we understand that you hold Prince Zhang in high regard, however often times more than naught, placing too much faith in someone results in heartbreak. In the end, what we and the people of this great empire wish for is an heir that is related to you, your majesty, in flesh and blood.” Lord Zhi Fang said.
“Is this your excuse for offering up your daughter me?” Jian Wei said in an angry tone as he pointed toward a beautiful young woman dressed in dazzling blue robes.
“Don’t think that all of your actions go unnoticed… I know that every single one of these women are related to a government official in one way or another.” Jian Wei said as he waved his hand and withdrew a golden colored scroll from his interspatial ring, before unfolding it and letting it roll through the center aisle of the Aurora Hall.
“Let it be known, if anyone dares speak of stripping Zhang of his military power and position again then I will not act as leniently as I did today.” Jian Wei announced.
Although he could simply solve his current predicament but slaughtering everyone, Jian Wei did not feel that was the proper way for an emperor to handle things. If he solved all of his problems by simply slaughtering everyone then he could be no different from a tyrant.