The carriage to the royal palace was extravagant, and the floor was covered with a persian rug colored in gold and red. It was said to be a gift from the Abbasid Caliphate’s royal family to Emperor Taizong.
The walls were also cloaked with a layer of expensive and opulent fabric.
All in all, the interiors were extraordinarily beautiful and comfortable.
Unfortunately, Wang Chong wasn’t in the mood to enjoy it.
While seated in the carriage, Wang Chong’s heart beat furiously.
The Sage Emperor was a legend of the Central Plains! At the same time, he was also the greatest emperor the Central Plains had ever had.
It was in his hands that Great Tang expanded its territories and capable individuals were brought into the royal court, thus ushering in an age of prosperity. The affluence of Great Tang towered over the other states, and countries from all directions visited and paid respect to Great Tang.
It was in his hands that the might of Great Tang was brought into greater heights, perhaps even becoming the strongest it had ever been in history.
At the same time, he was also the one who eventually indulged in alcohol, neglected politics, promoted corrupted officials, and turned away from capable subjects, thus pushing the entire empire into an abyss.
How could such a vast difference occur in the same person? It was as though he was replaced by an entirely different persona.
This was one of the greatest doubts Wang Chong harbored, as well as the unsolvable mystery in everyone’s hearts back then.
In his previous life, Wang Chong was only a profligate scion. He couldn’t even step through the gates to the royal palace, needless to say, meet the emperor.
By the time Wang Chong woke up and strived hard, the Wang Clan had already fallen from grace. He didn’t even have the rights to meet with powerful officials, lest to be said, the emperor.
Eventually, when Wang Chong became the Grand Marshal of the Central Plains…
The noble Sage Emperor of Great Tang had already been reduced to nothing, disappearing into the annals of history.
Throughout his entire life, Wang Chong had been unable to meet the noblest Sage Emperor of Great Tang.
This was one of his greatest regrets!
But upon reincarnation, this was about to change!
This was Wang Chong’s very first time meeting the emperor.
“I wonder why His Majesty would summon me”
Wang Chong felt uneasy. Countless thoughts flashed through his head, and even though he had some guesses of his own, he couldn’t confirm anything at all.
This summon came too abruptly.
Just as Wang Chong’s heart was beating furiously, the carriage suddenly halted. Some voices could be vaguely heard from the outside.
“Hai gonggong, pardon me! …”
It seemed like someone had stopped the carriage. To dare to stop a carriage of the royal court, the other party must be of exceptionally high standing.
Hearing the voice, Wang Chong abruptly sat upright in surprise. One of the voices belonged to the head eunuch, while the other one… was Wang Chong’s big uncle, Wang Gen!
Wang Gen was an influential official of the royal court. He had the rights to participate in politics, and due to the importance of his position, he possessed a high standing. This ‘high standing’ didn’t just apply to the royal court, it gave him a say in the affairs of the royal palace as well.
The duo negotiated in a hushed voice, so Wang Chong only heard the final words of the head eunuch.
“Lord Wang, go on. However, don’t take too long.”
As soon as the head eunuch finished his words, the door to the carriage opened. With a grave expression, Big Uncle Wang Gen bent down and dived into the carriage.
“Chong-er, we’re lacking in time, so listen well. You must remember these few things!”
Seated opposite to Wang Chong, Wang Gen was still wearing the robe from the morning assembly. Wang Chong had known his big uncle for a long period of time, but this was the first time he had seen such a grave look on him. It was even graver than the time he learned of Yao Clan’s ploy against his son.
“The regional commanders policy and the utilizing Hu talents policy, which the prime minister had liaised with many officials and Hu generals in the royal court to appeal with His Majesty to pass, has been refuted by your grandfather!”
Wang Gen dove straight into the point, dropping a bomb immediately.
Wang Chong’s body jolted in shock. It really was about the regional commanders policy! However, what Wang Chong was the most concerned wasn’t this, but his big uncle’s words of ‘refuted by your grandfather’.
Wang Chong didn’t know much about politics, but being in the Wang Clan, he came into contact with such matters fairly often, and over time, he learned a fair bit of it.
The regional commanders policy and utilizing Hu talents policy were proposed by the prime minister. Given that grandfather had refuted it, it meant that the relationship between the Wang Clan and the prime minister would be severed.
Things didn’t just end here. In the Great Tang, grandfather possessed extraordinary standing. He had many students and old subordinates, which gave rise to his immense influence.
Even though he rarely participated in politics, he held great influence over the royal court.
It was unprecedented for him to publicly object to policies like that. Wang Chong knew that the impact of the matter in the royal court wasn’t as simple as big uncle said.
“What is His Majesty’s view on this matter?”
Wang Chong suddenly asked.
“You sure are smart to be able to think of the crux of the matter so swiftly!”
Wang Gen praised. His nephew was truly intelligent, understanding matters with just the slightest hint. Sometimes, he found himself being amazed by him as well.
“This is where the problem lies. The officials didn’t expect your grandfather’s response, so there was a huge chaos in the morning assembly this morning. However, the biggest problem is that the Sage Emperor didn’t express a clear view on the matter, so no one knows what His Majesty is currently thinking.”
Wang Chong exclaimed silently, seemingly comprehending something.
“Now, do you understand why His Majesty has summoned you to the royal palace so abruptly?”
Wang Gen asked.
He had only received news of the summon after the end of the morning assembly. Just as he was leaving, he heard that the head eunuch was at the Wang Family Residence, and an imperial edict was issued to summon Wang Chong to the royal court to meet the emperor.
This news caught Wang Gen by surprise, and he was unnerved by the matter. Instinctively, he sensed danger.
Meeting the emperor was a huge matter for any prestigious clan. ‘The Son of Heaven doesn’t summon one for no reason’. If the meeting goes well, all would be fine. However, if it goes badly, that could spell a huge calamity for the entire clan.
In the previous dynasty, there had been clans who lost favor with the emperor and fell from grace due to such matters.
Wang Chong was inexperienced in this aspect, so Wang Gen couldn’t help but worry. Due to the limited time available, Wang Gen could only try to stop the carriage on the route.
“Wang Chong, this matter concerns our entire Wang Clan. It won’t just affect you. Your father, me, your big aunt, your uncle, everyone else will be implicated as well.”
Wang Gen explained gravely. He truly didn’t know whether it was a blessing or a calamity for Wang Chong to enter the royal court. All he could do was to pray for no mishap to happen.
“Thus, listen well. Once there, no matter what His Majesty asks, you have to respond. Even if you don’t know, you have to say that you don’t know. If His Majesty doesn’t ask anything, don’t speak at all. Don’t try to say anything unnecessary, and don’t try to flaunt your talents!”
Wang Gen stared at Wang Chong fixedly, and the entire atmosphere grew heavy.
Wang Chong could sense the worry of his big uncle. Even if he were to close his eyes, he could hear the other party’s heart beating furiously. ‘The Son of Heaven doesn’t summon one for insignificant matters’. On top of that, the prime minister, grandfather, the officials of the royal court, the Han, the Hu, and more importantly… the future fate of Great Tang. All of them hung in the balance
“Big uncle, don’t worry. I know what I should do!”
Wang Chong closed his eyes, and after a moment of contemplation, he replied. His expression was composed, and his calmness somehow assured Wang Gen.
Wang Gen nodded his head. Then, he swiftly explained the various details one must take note of when meeting the emperor, and Wang Chong listened attentively to his words.
“Lord Wang, it’s about time.”
A sharp voice sounded from beyond the carriage, and the head eunuch knocked on the compartment of the carriage.
Wang Gen didn’t dare to delay them any longer. He re-emphasized some of the main points before swiftly diving out of the carriage.
Then, under the escort of the dozen or so Chamberlains of Imperial Insignia, the carriage proceeded straight into the depths of the royal palace.
“I can only pray that nothing goes wrong for this child!”
Wang Gen gazed at the back of the carriage worriedly.
The Great Tang royal palace was grand and elegant. Its thick walls towered several dozens of zhang into the air as they gleamed under the shine of the radiant sun. Seated within the carriage, Wang Chong parted the curtains slightly, only to see imposing palaces and patrolling Imperial Army members everywhere.
Amidst the grandness was a strict regime.
Looking at the tall palaces, Wang Chong suddenly felt a little nostalgic. In truth, Wang Chong had been to the royal palace before, but at that time, all that was remained were shattered walls and desolate ruins.
The huge contrast between what he saw back then and the majestic royal palace before him now evoked some indescribable pain deep within Wang Chong’s heart.
‘A fallen empire as though catkin amidst storm, a person’s standing as if duckweed before rain’. Back then, standing before the ruins of the royal palace, Wang Chong recited these two lines.
The royal palace was the heart of the Great Tang, a symbol of unparalleled power within the Central Plains! The royal palace didn’t just represent authority, it also embodied the fate of the population.
“What’s over is over. In this life, regardless of the price, I won’t allow history to repeat itself.”
Clenching his fists tightly together, Wang Chong’s fingernails sunk deep into his flesh.
“Wang gongzi, the Taiji Palace is right before us, and the Sage Emperor is waiting for you inside. Make sure to take note of your etiquette later on so as to not offend His Majesty.”
Outside the carriage, the voice of the head eunuch sounded.
“Thank you, gonggong. I understand.”
Recovering from his daze, Wang Chong nodded.
Suddenly, a bizarre sensation rose within Wang Chong without any warning. The world before him darkened, and in the blink of an eye, an immense power that left even the heavens trembling in fear gushed straight at him from all directions.
It felt as though he had stepped from a world into another.
This intangible force weighed down on Wang Chong, and his body sunk. It was as though a mountain was pushing down against him, and his face paled slightly.
‘A fallen empire as though catkin amidst storm, a person’s standing as if duckweed before rain’
It means that once an empire has fallen, it couldn’t be brought back, as though a floating catkin amidst a storm.
And within such a storm, the standing of a person is as though a duckweed pelted with rain, rising and falling along with the circumstances.
It sort of contrasts humans against their circumstances.