Translated by Shiny
40. Military Merit System
When they arrived at Duancheng, everyone disembarked from the ship and set off to Jiangzhou, the capital of the Nation of Jin.
Three miles away from the city.
The Three Excellencies and Nine Ministers,1 and the civil and military officials all lined up in welcome.
The bureaucratic system of the Jin Nation was quite complicated with the three excellencies who held the respective positions of Grand Preceptor, Grand Tutor and Grand Protector.
However, they did not participate in the governance of the imperial court, only appearing in important assemblies. It was customary for these posts to be held by the seniors from the powerful noble families.
The Grand Preceptor, Grand Tutor, and Grand Protector: these three positions were responsible for nation’s politics, supervision and the military.
Moreover, there were also the Minister of Ceremonies, Supervisor of Attendants, Commandant of Guards, and the rest of the nine high officials who were in charge of the national affairs of the state, in addition to the lieutenant in charge of the city’s safety and the Great Chief who was in charge of the affairs regarding the emperor’s harem.
In short, the roles were unclear, their rights and responsibilities were mutually encroached on, and the majority of these posts were monopolized by the aristocrats from the powerful families.
Cheng Qianye swept her gaze over this crowd of people and felt a profound understanding of the grievances that Cheng Qianyu had originally suffered. These subjects in front of her appeared to be serious and respectful, however, not even a few of them held any genuine awe towards their own lord.
One after another, bright colours representing all sorts of thoughts and emotions criss-crossed together, giving a headache to Cheng Qianye who had already become accustomed to feigned sincerity.
After she finished dealing with these courtiers, she went to the imperial harem and met with her “mother” whom she had met only once before – Yang Ji; Old Madame Yang, – and the big-bellied concubine Xu Fei who was close to giving birth.
As soon as Old Madame Yang saw her, her eyes filled with tears and she grabbed her hand, stifling back her sobs as she said, “My Child, you have suffered.”
But when her gaze fell on Yao Tianxiang who was standing beside Cheng Qianye, she couldn’t help revealing an odd expression.
In front of the people who were well-acquainted with the inside story, Cheng Qianye felt somewhat embarrassed to introduce Yao Tianxiang as her wife.
She rubbed her nose and pulled Yao Tianxiang’s hand, briefly explaining the ins and outs of the whole story and stressing on Yao Tianxiang’s support for herself.
Finally, Yao Tianxiang was introduced to her mother as her daughter-in-law.
Yao Tianxiang gave her greetings before retiring.
Old Madame Yang dismissed everyone before embracing Cheng Qianye in her bosom.
She stroked Cheng Qianye’s hair. Thinking about how her daughter who had been pampered since she was a child was forced to deal with such difficult issues, she couldn’t help feeling sad, choking on her sobs.
Although Cheng Qianye did not share any genuine sentiments with this Old Madame, at this moment, she could still feel the mother’s sincere love for her daughter.
Thinking about her parents and elder brother who were in another world, her heart felt slightly sore.
After a long time, Old Madame Yang finally calmed down. Cheng Qianye sat up straight and neatened her robes before handing over a handkerchief and comforting her, “Mother, you needn’t be so sad. Your child has become more and more familiar with government affairs now and everything is going smoothly, there’s nothing wrong.”
Old Madame Yang wiped her tears. “I have heard that you have been employing new methods to control the chaos in Bianzhou and that you have been governing the city with great kindness, gaining the goodwill of the people with praises for your achievements spreading to the capital one after another. You are truly capable. Compared to your…. you are much better.”
Concubine Xu stood at the side and quietly wiped her tears.
Cheng Qianye looked at her huge stomach, thinking it wasn’t very nice to keep having her stand.
Waving her hand, she pulled her to sit beside her before stretching out her hand and carefully stroking Concubine Xu’s round belly. A small lump suddenly protruded from the belly, shifting and pushing against Cheng Qianye’s palm.
“Oh, he…. he’s kicking me.” Not having had much contact with pregnant women, Cheng Qianye marvelled at this novel experience.
“Maybe he knows his aunt has come to see him, he’s especially excited today.” Concubine Xu smiled tenderly.
She was a gentle and agreeable woman with white skin and a beautiful appearance. Her face had become somewhat plump due to her pregnancy, making her fair skin appear to be even smooth and lustrous.
At this moment, she had lowered her head as she gently stroked her stomach with the sort of tenderness belonging to a woman who was about to become a mother, her whole body glowing with soft, goose yellow hue.
Like the dainty jasmine flowers in spring, she was delicate and lovely.
Cheng Qianye thought to herself: Such a fragile woman can unexpectedly survive in the inner palace while being pregnant.
Old Madame Yang coughed and said irately, “I have told you so many times, even if there are no outsiders present, you cannot change the form of address as you wish. This sort of carelessness is precisely what will bring about the ruin of the family and calamity upon the country.”
Concubine Xu turned pale and rose to her feet before saying in a soft voice, “Yes, I was wrong, Mother and Hus…. Husband, please forgive me.”
“There is no one else here, it doesn’t matter. Just pay more attention next time.” Cheng Qianye took her hand and discovered that her hand had become cold and icy within an instant.
Why was she so afraid of Old Madame Yang?
Cheng Qianye changed the subject, “Your belly looks quite big. Could it be that you are pregnant with twins like Mother was with me and my brother?”
“No, no, Husband.” Concubine Xu glanced at Cheng Qiante gratefully, “Because this is…. Husband’s first child, Mother is especially attentive to Chenqie2 and frequently sends all kinds of nourishing tonics, so the child has become stronger.”
Cheng Qianye had been unmarried before she had transmigrated and didn’t know much about childbearing. She nodded her head and didn’t pay further attention to the matter.
Raising her head, she asked Old Madame Yang, “There were quite a few palace attendants present at the scene that night. Although they are all trusted people who are close to Mother, is it safe to presume that everything is alright?”
Old Madame Yang did not answer, first turning to Concubine Xu and saying, “Concubine Xu, you go and rest first. Let me have a good talk with my son.”
Concubine Xu’s face was slightly pale as she rose to her feet and saluted respectfully before taking her leave.
Old Madame Yang took Cheng Qianye’s hand, rubbing the back of her hand as she said, “My child, don’t worry. I have already cleanly dealt with those irrelevant people.”
Cheng Qianye understood what she meant by “cleanly dealing” with them.
She had always been generous and forgiving. After transmigrating, she had tried her best to adapt to the different ways of dealing with matters under this backdrop of a different era, but hearing these words from Old Madame Yang still left her feeling discomfited for a while.
In her memories, when the mother and daughter duo had been stuck at an impasse and wanted to commit suicide, all the attendants beside them had been with them and served them intimately for several years. They had not only watched Cheng Qianye loyally as she grew up, but they were also ready to die with them.
Leaving no one left, they had been “cleanly dealt” with.
“What about Concubine Xu? Mother, what do you intend to do?”
“My Child, you just sit tight and concern yourself with the affairs of the imperial court before you. You don’t need to worry about these matters regarding the harem. Leave it all to your mother. Regardless of whether the child is male or female, it is a must to get rid of the mother and keep the child.”
Old Madame Ji stroked Cheng Qianye’s hand lovingly. “Mother has already thought about it. You also carry your father’s blood. If you wish for your own child to inherit the throne in the future, your Mother will also support you. Leave Concubine Xu’s child to your Mother. Mother will take care of the child and let him grow up peacefully.”
This sentence was not easy for a woman who had grown up in this era of male chauvinism to say. She was wholeheartedly considerate of her daughter.
Her heart was genuinely filled with love when it came to Cheng Qianye. Nevertheless, it could not be denied that she was also a cruel and cold-blooded person at the same time. As long as it was someone other than her own flesh and blood, this lady was capable of killing them without the slightest hesitation.
Cheng Qianye’s heart was filled with complex emotions as she looked at this “mother” in front of her; she knew that it would be very difficult to change the fixed beliefs of such a middle-aged woman.
These women who lived in the inner palace often devoted their minds to one or two things. Once they finally made their move, it was often terrifying and hard to defend against.
“Since Concubine Xu knows already, just keep her. It isn’t proper if I don’t have any concubines around me.” Cheng Qianye interjected.
“This…..” Old Madame Yang hesitated for a moment, “According to your meaning, that princess from Wei is also aware of your identity?”
Cheng Qianye lowered her voice and explained, “As a woman, it is very inconvenient sometimes if I don’t have someone around me who knows the truth. I need a wife such as Tianxiang beside me.”
“You cannot meddle.” She added cautiously.
“You have a point, then let’s forget about this princess. But why is it that I’ve heard….” Old Madame Yang dodged her gaze for a moment. “You are especially doting and trusting of a man. It is said that he is a slave.”
Cheng Qianye straightened up and tried hard to suppress her impatience. “I am a monarch. Since I can sit on this throne and rule this land, I can naturally have a man I like. Don’t tell me that Mother wishes for me to be alone for the rest of my life?”
Old Madame Yang was stunned and explained instinctively, “No, that was definitely not what I meant.”
Cheng Qianye subdued her emotions for a moment before rising to her feet and taking her leave from Old Madame Yang as gently as she could.
At that moment, Old Madame Yang was finally struck by the realization that after their parting, her daughter who had always tugged on her arm in a spoiled manner had gone through foul winds and bloody rain3 where her eyes could not see and had already transformed to become a powerful monarch.
She already possessed her husband’s majestic bearing from when he had been in his prime.
Even if she didn’t show her anger or speak loudly and merely sat there with her brows knit together, it still caused one to instinctively feel afraid.
Cheng Qianye returned to her imperial residence and met Zhang Fu and Helan Zhen.
“Tomorrow in court, I will be discussing the issue of sending troops to support Bianzhou. There is bound to be a lot of resistance, you two should be prepared.”
Helan Zhen loyally cupped his fists together and said, “Beizhi4 will return home and contact my uncle and do my best to persuade my family and relatives from the Helan clan to support My Lord to pass the decree.”
Cheng Qianye nodded, “That is why I didn’t let you return to Bianzhou first and brought you back together with me instead.”
She looked at Zhang Fu again.
Zhang Fu bowed and said, “Weichen5 is not afraid of a duel of words with that group of officials, it’s just that….”
He hesitated for a moment and frowned and said, “Our country has not engaged in war in a long time and we cannot find skillful soldiers or teach them in such a hurry. Even if all the ministers have assembled their own private armies within their own fiefdoms, they would not be willing to allocate their own men and horses to go on an expedition to such a faraway place that offers them no benefits for the sake of the country.”
“I have an idea I wish to discuss with you.” Cheng Qianye said, “I want to use slaves as the main force of our army.”
“Slaves?” Helan Zheng and Zhang Fu looked at each other in dismay.
“My Lord, slaves cannot hold a candle against a regular army. They have always been slow and powerless on the battlefield and they can only be used as coolies or cast their lives away as vanguards. Slaves hold no combat ability as a regular force of the army.” Zhang Fu persuaded tactfully.
Cheng Qianye fished out a scroll filled with writing from her drawer and unfolded it slowly. “This is the military merit system that I have formulated after referring to the thoughts of the sages of the past. You take a good look. I have decided to use this to quell the slavery I so abhor.”
Zhang Fu and Helan Zhen looked up and saw that the first line from the mass of text read: In all wars, every soldier can gain military merits. Those who can get one head can eliminate their status as slaves. Those who can get ten heads will be conferred with a title of nobility of the first degree.
1. Three Excellencies / Three Dukes / Three Lords / Three Ducal Ministers. Each minister was responsible for different areas of government, but the boundaries were often blurred. Together, the Three Excellencies were the emperor’s closest advisors. Three Excellencies and Nine Ministers was a central administrative system adopted in ancient China.↩
2. (臣妾 – chénqiè) – I, your servant / This concubine [self-appellation of a lower-rank female / concubine]↩
3. (腥风血雨 – xīng fēng xuè yǔ) – Idiom; rusty smell in the wind with blood coming down like rain, describing a dangerous atmosphere or environment of crazy carnage.↩
4. (卑职 – Beizhi) – Your humble subordinate, I. [Used by subordinate officials when speaking to their superiors.]↩
5. (微臣 – Weichen) – More humble version of Chen. Literally; This small official / Your humble servant.↩
TL Note: Hello guys~ sorry sorry sorry, been really busy, but I’ll be getting back to daily updates very soon,
pwomise. But omg yasss finallyyy that moment we have all been waiting for. The. First. Step. And boy, is it gonna be badass. Ugh just compare the growth CQY has gone through from the beginning to now. She wasn’t all badass in the beginning, but it was a gradual progression to this step and I looove it. Things gonna get awesome soon so stick with me~ <3