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xlwoo
October 18th, 2014, 04:58 PM
Chapter 9

Since Concubine Yan had such a strong desire for power, she must find some allies. At first she sent someone to approach Sushun, but he always despised women. Her sheep’s eyes cast to him were ignored. Concubine Yan was greatly disappointed in and even infuriated with him. He got himself a terrible foe without knowing it.
Then she approached Prince Yixin, the emperor’s brother, who was more talented than the emperor. The emperor often feared that his brother would some day usurp his throne. It was all because of Yixin’s mother, a royal concubine of the late emperor, the present Emperor Xianfeng’s father. Emperor Xianfeng’s mother, the queen, had died not long after his birth. So the late emperor had given him to the care of Yixin’s mother. The two children, two years apart, had studied together, played together and grown up together. The relationship between them had been closer than that among other siblings. Emperor Xianfeng was the fourth son of the late emperor and Yixin was the sixth. Among the royal family members, he was called Old Six, but his younger brothers called him Sixth Brother. When the old emperor had died, Emperor Xianfeng had succeeded to the throne. Since Yixin’s mother was not the queen, she had been called Royal Concubine Dowager. For several times, Yixin had asked the emperor to confer to his mother the title of the empress dowager, but the emperor had declined, saying that it was against the etiquette rules, though such rules had always been changed throughout history. When Yixin’s mother had been seriously sick, the emperor often went to visit her. On her death bed, in her last moments when the emperor went to see her again, she had mistaken him for her own son Yixin. She said, “Take care of yourself when I’m gone. The throne should have been yours.” Hearing those words, the emperor was not happy and from then on he started to estrange Yixin, afraid that his brother would some day usurp his throne. So he always prevented his brother from getting into any power. Being talented, though usurpation never came across his mind, Yixin wished to use his talents to serve the empire, to perform some great deeds. He didn’t want to live like a good-for-nothing.
Now as the empire was facing the danger of further invasion, Yixin was at last appointed in charge of the negotiation with the foreign invaders. After a lot of bargaining, a treaty was signed. Then the invading armies withdrew from the capital. Yixin sent in a report to the emperor, requesting that the emperor return to Peking since peace was restored. But the emperor found an excuse for himself: he was too sick to travel in the cold weather. There was at least some truth in it.

* * *


The only person Sushun feared was Yixin. He had a finger in the emperor’s alienation of his brother. He knew that if the emperor had trusted in Yixin, he wouldn’t have had the power as he had now. So a rumor had started to spread that Yixin wanted to usurp the throne. Even another brother of Emperor Xianfeng, the fifth son of the late emperor, believed in it and had mentioned it to Emperor Xianfeng. So every time when Yixin asked to come to the Summer Palace for a visit, the emperor declined, saying that it was more important for Yixin to stay in the capital.
Now as the rumor about the emperor’s health went around, everyone had to take into serious consideration his interests, his future, and his fate. For the officialdom was a dangerous place. The ups and downs, life and death, were determined in just a few moments. Yixin had two faithful followers, like his two hands. Wenqiang was a secretary of state, the only secretary who didn’t follow the emperor to the Summer Palace. He wanted to stay in the capital to assist Yixin to deal with the foreign aggressors. Baojun was the other person, who was the head of the Royal Family Affairs Management. But the emperor didn’t like him for two things. First, as he was the head of the Royal Family Affairs Management in charge of the imperial residences, he should have sent in a report of self-criticism and asked for punishment when the Round-Bright Garden had been burnt, but he had just handed in a report of statement about the conflagration, nothing else. It was because the emperor had already ordered him to give up the keys to The Round-Bright Garden to another head of the Royal Family Affairs Management. Therefore, he hadn’t begged for punishment as he had thought that it was no longer in his responsibility. However, the emperor had given him a demotion. But a while later he had been restored to his former position as Yixin had mentioned to the emperor that he had done something to deserve a reward. A reward could offset a punishment. So he got back to the square he had been in. He was so intimate with Yixin that he could even joke with him. The second reason the emperor disliked him was that as soon as the emperor reached the Summer Palace, he had ordered Baojun to send over two hundred thousand taels of silver for the repair of the Summer Palace, but somehow he hadn’t sent the money, or he hadn’t had any money on hand at all. Sushun disliked him, too, as he was Yixin’s follower.
In the Secretarial Bureau, there were clerical officials to help the secretaries with their clerical work, like drafting an order for the emperor, a report to the emperor, a reply to any official or officer who had sent in a report and required a reply, or copying an emperor’s order in a formal writing style, then getting it dispatched to anywhere it should go. They couldn’t make any decisions, but they had all the inside information. So they were the popular ones in the whole officialdom. The clerical officials were divided into two shifts, because if emergency arose, clerical assistance would be needed even in the midnight. Zao Yueying was the head clerical official in the daytime shift. He was secretly a follower of Yixin. So Yixin knew everything that happened in the Summer Palace.
Wenqiang was a man of talent and patience. Based on the information sent by Zao, the head clerical official, he made up a strategy for Yixin. Yixin shouldn’t do anything obvious yet to rouse the suspicion of Sushun, but he could make any necessary preparations on the sly. The most important thing in the politics, in the power fight, was the support of armies. Sushun had the command of two thousand emperor’s bodyguards in the Summer Palace. Yixin should get some commanders of armies on his side. The ideal candidate was Commander Shengbao. When the joint foreign troops had advanced toward Peking, Commander Shengbao had been assigned the task to defend the capital. He had fought a battle against the foreign troops, but had been defeated. Accordingly to the martial law, he would have been severely punished, but as the emperor had already escaped to the Summer Palace and Yixin had been put in charge of all the things in the capital, Commander Shengbao had got away with only a slap on his wrist under Yixin’s protection. So he was grateful to Yixin for it. Besides, he hated Sushun for his arrogance and hauteur. Now in Yixin’s name, Wenqiang had a letter written to him with a hint of the emperor’s health problem and Sushun’s avarice for absolute power. The letter served as a red rag to a bull. But Commander Shengbao was a scholar-commander and had brains, though he had also a quick temper. A scholar-commander was originally a scholar, and was later appointed a commander of armies. Commander Shengbao was proud of himself that he could write beautifully and could fight, too.