Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Wang Chong bowed and said, "Grandfather, Grandmother, I brought back some of Arabia's specialties with me. Inside are pearls and herbs from Arabia. Crushing the pearls and mixing them with the herbs can extend one's life and bolster the body. In addition, your grandson has brought back pineapples and durians, fruits that cannot be found in the Central Plains. I offer them to Grandfather and Grandmother to taste.
"Besides that, your grandson has also brought some Goguryeon golden ginseng to gift to Grandfather and Grandmother, and clothes and carpets made from the pelts of polar bears and arctic foxes, animals that live north of the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganates."
"Heh, what a good and considerate child!"
The Old Madam was so pleased that she could hardly stop smiling.
At their age, they cared little about precious treasures. What they found more precious was Wang Chong's consideration.
Duke Jiu said nothing, but he shot Wang Chong a glance of praise.
Although he resided in Four Quarters Embassy and paid no attention to court affairs, he had always paid attention to news that concerned Wang Chong.
"Not bad! Your grandfather was right about you! The trials you've been through have made you more mature and steadier, a true backbone minister of the Great Tang!" the Old Master declared.
Children and grandchildren would encounter their own fortunes, and the Old Master had rarely interfered in the careers of Wang Gen, Wang Yan, and Wang Chong. Even when Wang Chong had suffered a setback in the militarist-Confucian conflict, the Old Master had known and had chosen to stay mostly out of the way.
Only through honing could one sharpen a precious sword, and only through the bitter winter could peach blossoms be so fragrant. And Wang Chong had not disappointed him. Through his various trials, Wang Chong had been transformed, and he had finally become the revered and illustrious King of Foreign Lands, the hero of the Great Tang.
He had even been enshrined in Lingyan Pavilion, the first in one hundred years! This was an unprecedented honor.
And because of him, the entire Wang Clan had climbed to a completely new level. In this aspect, the Wang Clan had completely surpassed the Yao Clan, leaving Old Master Yao Chong and Yao Guangyi choking in the dust.
Of course, for the Old Master, the most important thing was that Wang Chong had not disappointed him. He had become a true supporting pillar of the empire, a fiercely loyal subject who had not betrayed the Wang Clan's traditions.
"Grandfather, thank you for your generous praise. Your grandson only did his duty!" Wang Chong humbly replied.
Although he had experienced so many sights, had been made a Marquis, a King, and even been enshrined in Lingyan Pavilion, none of these could compare to the simple words of praise from his grandfather.
Wang Chong felt his heart relax in happiness, warmth, and pride.
As a descendant of Duke Jiu and a son of a clan of ministers and generals, he had not betrayed the Wang Clan's traditions.
Duke Jiu pointed a finger in front of him, and a Golden Guard quickly placed a stool there.
"You are now an important official of the state, so your every move is being watched. The Imperial Court relies on you, as does the border. Every move you make is critical. As they say, a general does not move out lightly. For you to come to Four Quarters Embassy, you must have had another reason besides seeing your grandfather!"
Once Wang Chong was seated, the Old Master gazed at him with his perceptive eyes.
"Your grandson truly has encountered some difficulties recently."
After a few moments of silence, Wang Chong got straight to the point.
"Recently, many worrying incidents have taken place in the Imperial Court. Your grandson has pondered them for many days but has still not been able to find an answer. Your grandson hopes that Grandfather can provide some guidance."
The Old Master and Madam shared a glance as if they had predicted this.
From the moment Wang Chong had appeared, they knew that he had come for a reason.
After a brief pause, Wang Chong began to relate what was happening in the court: the Eastern Palace incident, the construction of the Peace Pavilion, the selection of talented women, the conversation in the rear hall… In addition, he spoke of the Sage Emperor's strange behaviors previous to the Rebellion of the Three Princes and his own speculations.
The Old Master and Madam intently listened the entire time. A long while later, Wang Chong was done, and the room fell silent as the two elders turned pensive.
"Have things already reached this stage?" the Old Master suddenly said.
Wang Chong shivered and raised his head.
Wang Chong had just been trying his luck in visiting his grandfather, not really hoping for an answer. But from his grandfather's tone, expression, and words, Wang Chong immediately sensed that he had found the right person.
His grandfather seemed to know a significant part of the story!
"Grandfather, this is an extremely important manner that has the attention of the entire court. Moreover, the Sage Emperor's personality change is so great that it has provoked much speculation," Wang Chong sternly said.
"Chong-er, you are an important official of the state, so you should know that matters related to the sovereign do not permit reckless conjecture. For some matters, if the Sage Emperor and Eunuch Gao will not speak, they naturally have their reasons for doing so and hardships that they must endure.
"Moreover, compared to seeking things out, as a subject, you should be seeking to stabilize the country and safeguard the people! As for anything else, as long as it does not harm the country, it need not be your focus," the Old Master declared.
Wang Chong was taken aback. He had never expected that his grandfather would decide to remain uninvolved after hearing all this.
This was not the normal reaction!
His grandfather and the Sage Emperor had known each other for decades, and the entire realm knew of their relationship. In normal circumstances, his grandfather should have been worried about the Sage Emperor's condition after learning about what was going on, not urging his grandson to place his duty as a subject and the stability of the country above the matter.
Qiqin was right. Grandfather, just like Eunuch Gao, knows the truth.
Wang Chong's heart thumped in instinctive dismay.
An indescribable feeling surged through his mind.
Wang Chong truly found it hard to imagine what secret would make Gao Lishi and his grandfather, despite knowing full well the truth behind the Sage Emperor's condition, determined to maintain their silence and act unaware.
Moreover, it was one thing for Gao Lishi to remain silent, but why was his grandfather also unwilling to tell him?
And there were no outsiders present, only members of the Wang Clan. In other words, the situation was so serious that not even his grandson could know.
Wang Chong found himself more and more confused.
Countless thoughts ran through his disordered mind.
If not even Eunuch Gao and his grandfather would tell him, who else could know the truth?
If it was really as Qiqin had analyzed, the Great Tang would face an even worse situation. How would it be handled then?
Was he just going to have to sit back and let it happen?
"Grandfather, this is not a matter related to the country or its people, nor does your grandson wish to forcefully intervene, but the matter is extremely grave. His Majesty is revered by all the people as a sovereign for the ages. Your grandson is confident that we equally revere the Sage Emperor.
"But the Sage Emperor's actions have already incurred deep discontent from the court, and the imperial censors are particularly incensed. They have even begun to call His Majesty an incapable ruler in private!" Wang Chong said.
The Old Master had been unperturbed initially, but the mention of 'incapable ruler' made him blink, his face twitching.
"Absurd! His Majesty has poured all his effort into ruling over the empire. It is only through the Sage Emperor's efforts that the Great Tang has reached its current stage. When did even His Majesty start being considered an incapable ruler!?"
The Old Master showed a rare hint of rage on his face.
"Old Master, soothe your anger. This child is merely relaying what he has heard."
The Old Madam grabbed Duke Jiu and soothed him.
"Grandfather, no one would say that, and even if they did, they would only be a small number that would not represent the people. But if nothing is done and this is allowed to continue, your grandson worries that it will one day become reality.
"Grandfather, just like you, your grandson wishes to protect the Sage Emperor's reputation so that he has a good beginning and good end!" Wang Chong sternly said.
No one understood more than Wang Chong how things would develop.
If the memories from his previous life were anything to go by, the Sage Emperor would indulge himself in pleasure and women, and his series of absurd actions would incur greater and greater objections from the realm until he truly gained the infamous title of 'incapable ruler'.
This was one thing in the past, when he had just been a stray lotus leaf going with the flow, but now, Wang Chong was right in the middle of the vortex.
In addition, the more Wang Chong understood about the Sage Emperor, the less he wanted to see the Sage Emperor reach that stage.
This was one of the primary reasons Wang Chong had persisted with his investigation.
As the Old Master looked into Wang Chong's eyes, he seemed to sense something, and his mind was shaken.
Wang Chong briefly thought things over, and then he took out the double fish pendant.
"In the rear hall, the Sage Emperor also gave me this jade pendant."
Wang Chong had just been throwing it out there, and hadn't expected both the Old Master and Madam to fiercely tremble at the sight of the pendant, even more shaken by it than Wang Chong's account of recent events.
The Old Master took the double fish pendant from Wang Chong's hands and gave a long and complicated sigh.
"I didn't think that His Majesty would give you this jade pendant."
The Old Master's old fingers gently caressed the pendant, almost as if the pendant carried some sort of special significance.
Wang Chong was shocked to see this.
He merely thought that the jade pendant possessed some special ability or had been like the white chess piece Su Zhengchen had once given him, containing extremely important information. But from his grandfather's reaction, Wang Chong could tell that the background of the jade pendant was not as simple as he had imagined.
Judging by his reaction, the jade pendant probably had an extremely long history and meant something special to the Sage Emperor, the Old Master, and Eunuch Gao.
If this was the case, why had the Sage Emperor given it to him?
What secret did the jade pendant hold?
The questions on Wang Chong's mind only increased.
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