Conversation Between a Monarch and a Servant (Part 1)
We're still at the Vermillion Hall. There were only two people in the room. Everybody else had returned to their respective places already.
Seeing Shen Yiren refuse to take a seat, the emperor laughed bitterly.
"What's wrong? Are you expecting me to beg you to take a seat?"
Shen Yiren's facial expression was still as though her usual demeanour was pretence. She knelt and said: "I failed to teach my subordinates properly causing you to suffer. Please have me punished!"
The emperor waved his hand and said: "Alright, alright, skip that rubbish. I asked to see you because I wanted to know how you've been recently. Did you think I'd punish you? Get up and speak."
Shen Yiren continued kneeling and didn't raise her head. The emperor watched her grow up so he dotes on her like she's his own nephew. If it was somebody else who caused today's ruckus, they'd have been punished, but not her. Shen Yiren was well aware of that.
The lass usually has no regards for any rules or laws, so of course the emperor knew her act was for something else. However, he was well aware that her request would be something difficult to complete.
"Yiren, there are no outsiders. I want to have a heart-to-heart talk with you." The emperor wasn't putting on airs. He could be lax with anyone. That's just how he is. However, his identity as the emperor means that he must be careful with every word he says and every action he takes. But otherwise, he's just like a close uncle to Shen Yiren.
"To punish Yan Shisan's mistake that year, I deliberately gave Liu Shan Men the cold shoulder all these years. But I know that you've been working hard. You sold your household stuff to fund the repairs of Liu Shan Men's plaque. You even went as far as giving your hand in marriage to Song Ou to expand the influence of Liu Shan Men. Why do you put yourself through this suffering?"
Shen Yiren pursed her lips and a sad look appeared in her eyes and then quickly disappeared. She then said: "I'm ashamed, your majesty. My parents did everything they could for Liu Shan Men. Expanding Liu Shan Men is my lifetime-dream. What I've done can't compare to what my parents did."
"What you just said has made me feel even more guilty towards your parents. Shen Jun was my childhood friend, and our bond was like that of brothers. He has been my benefactor on many occasions, and I remember them all. I highly respect Mrs Shen who was a heroic woman." The emperor felt more apologetic towards the girl before him as he recounted the past. "When Brother Shen passed away, I promised him that I'd look after you. I feel that I've let him down now though, since you and your brother are leading such harsh lives."
Shen Yiren kept her head down the whole time: "Your majesty, I dare not threaten you into doing unjust things with my father's accomplishments. But Liu Shan Men has been quiet for many years. There are only ten of the elites left from Liu Shan's Elite rankings. Has our punishment not been enough? I just feel that Liu Shan Men needs an opportunity to prove itself, and serve you again."
The emperor stayed silent for a very long time before softly saying: "Do you know why I'm here today?"
"I'm not sure myself. I have invited you many times, but you refused to come due to your work. I thought you wouldn't come today either."
The emperor didn't address what she said and said: "Did you know the Qilin Guards captain made a report yesterday? He wanted me to change Liu Shan's Elite Rankings into Qi Lin's Elite Rankings."
To Shen Yiren, that news was the equivalent of raining on her parade. Her beautiful face instantly turned pale-white. In a shaky voice she said: "That, that, umm, so, what did you decide?" Shen Yiren couldn't control her trembling voice after she finished speaking.
Liu Shan Men has been quiet for a long time and their reputation has gone down the drain. All that's left is its once glorious history and the gold lettered plaque. If the Qilin Guards take that as well, then reviving Liu Shan Men would be as difficult as resurrecting the dead.
"What do you think? How do you think I should decide?"
"I… I dare not question your decisions."
The emperor's heart ached seeing Shen Yiren's fearful look. He said with a sigh: "I've delayed the matter for now. Liu Shan Men has accomplished many deeds for the royal court so I can't close it down entirely because of its performance these last few years and Yan Shisan's personal mistake."
Shen Yiren's anarchic mood calmed down a little, but then the emperor continued: "I can delay it for now, but I can't put it off forever. Liu Shan's Elite Ranking lists the name of one-hundred of the strongest fighters in the royal court. Originally, it was meant to include Liu Shan Men, my entourage and the Qilin Guards. The Qilin Guards now occupy sixty spots. More than twenty people from my entourage are listed. As for Liu Shan Men… You know how it is.
Further, the Qilin Guards' request isn't unreasonable. They've done a lot to create order in the martial world all these years, and have never slacked off. They aren't asking for a reward. They're just asking for recognition. I believe that that's reasonable."
The emperor finally said what he really wanted to say.
"Yiren, you're Brother Shen's daughter. You're just like a daughter to me, and your relationship with my daughter is very good. I want to bestow the title of princess upon you. Pass Liu Shan Men's matters on to somebody else. You're a girl after all, so you're not suited…"
Shen Yiren lowered her head further and said in a worked up tone: "All I ask for is a fair chance."
The emperor looked at Shen Yiren. His gentle gaze suddenly became sharp.
"Shen Yiren! You do realise that if Liu Shan Men were to rise again, the resources allocated to the Qilin Guards and my entourage would be affected, right? The cake is only so big. If another person wants a piece, then somebody is going to stop them, and the person stopping you is no simpleton."
"I know that."
"You should also be aware the the Qilin Guards have grown significantly all these years while Liu Shan Men was quiet. The Qilin Guards now occupy a part of the martial world and have a certain degree of influence. I feel assured with those in the pugilistic world keeping them in check too. My entourage may look like they're not doing anything, but they're actually investigating secret cases related to retainers, ministers and officials, as well as protecting me. They've done a fair amount for the people too. If they have problems because of you, I won't back you. My dear nephew… The road in front of you is rocky."
Shen Yiren finally raised her head. The gentle look in her eyes had vanished and her domineering and strong aura as the vice-captain returned. She said: "I want to expand Liu Shan Men, so it's a given that I've prepared myself to face all the obstacles ahead. I'll take on anything that comes my way! I'm not afraid even if it's a sea of fire up ahead. If the road ahead is tough, I'll crawl if I have to!"