Oblivious to Yang Zhao’s reaction, Wang Chong glanced at the《Song of Purity and Peace 2》 written beneath his brush and nodded his satisfaction.
In another time-space continuum, Li Bai had written this poem in a drunken state under the orders of the emperor. Even though his work was overflowing with talent, he was unable to think straight then and wrote ‘Who of the Great Han could match her grace? Perhaps only when the lovely swallow (Feiyan) dons her facade.”
Back then, when Wang Chong read this poem, he thought that Li Bai was praising Yang Taizhen’s beauty to as surpassing that of Zhao Feiyan. However, after looking into it, he realized that it was not the case.
In the poem, the word ‘pity’ had the meaning of ‘cute’ whereas ‘facade’ referred to the coy expression of a beauty. He was comparing Yang Taizhen to the Han dynasty’s ‘Zhao Feiyan’.
Who was Zhao Feiyan?
She was the empress of Emperor Cheng of Han.
Legend has it that Zhao Feiyan could dance on the extended hand of the Emperor Cheng of Han, granting her the title of ‘Lithe Palmtop Dancer’.
Her beauty was also often a topic of compliment.
Comparing Yang Taizhen to Zhao Feiyan was a compliment. However, how could he have known that other than her slim figure and her ability to dance on palmtop, she was also the origin of the phrase ‘swallow pecking off the royal offsprings’ written within the 《Memorial For Xu Jingye Against Wu Zhao》 by Luo Binwang. It was eventually compiled within 《Records of Ancient Text》, thus ‘leaving her mark in history’!
Even though Zhao Feiyan was known to have the beauty that could make a fish sink, a goose plummet, the moon pale, and a flower blush, and she possessed grace that none could match up to, capable of dancing on a palmtop, hidden beneath her alluring exterior was a poisonous heart.
Emperor Cheng of Han was poisoned by her, and the number of royal offsprings she killed was uncountable.
Li Bai had compared Yang Taizhen to the vile Zhao Feiyan who poisoned the emperor and the royal offsprings, was this not courting death?
If not for his superior literary skills, he would have died then.
Even though Li Bai and Du Fu did not exist in this world, Emperor Cheng of Han and Zhao Feiyan did.
Consort Taizhen was well-learned in poetry verses, and if the 《Song of Purity and Peace 2》 that Wang Chong wrote were to refer her to the vile Zhao Feiyan, he would have truly offended her thoroughly.
All of the goodwill he earned as the author of the 《Song and Purity and Peace 1》 would only be converted into hostility; Wang Chong would truly be a fool if he were to present such a work to her.
However, after a slight edit, it should be fine.
‘Xi Zi’ referred to ‘Xi Shi’, and she was on of the Four Great Beauties. The very phrase ‘a fish sink, a goose plummet, the moon pale, and a flower blush’ came from her. It was said that her beauty had truly reached the pinnacle of the world, and when she tidied herself up by the river, the fishes would suffocate upon seeing her beauty and sink to the bottom of the river. Flowers would close their petals upon her presence, not daring to compete with her.
Xi Zi’s beauty was unimaginable!
More importantly, she served was an emperor as well. As for what kind of possible allegory that could result from ‘Xi Zi’ and what kind of connections one could make, Wang Chong could not be bothered anymore.
Li Bai was still way too timid; he only dared to compare Yang Taizhen to Zhao Feiyan. On the other hand, Wang Chong went on to put her above ‘Xi Zi’. Given that, no problem could pose a problem anymore.
“Hehe, Her Highness has just been inducted into the palace and conferred as a consort, but Wang Chong has yet to congratulate her yet. I’ll write another poem for her as a gift then.”
Wang Chong suddenly said. Since he had already written down the 《Song of Purity and Peace 2》, he might as well write the 《Song of Purity and Peace 3》 too.
“Good! Good! Good! That’ll be for the best. Her Highness will be delighted.”
Yang Zhao’s eyes lit up and he immediately clapped in encouragement.
This was not flattery. Only those within the palace knew how much Her Highness was fond of poems. Despite Wang Chong’s squiggly words in the first letter, she still kept it by her side at all times, valuing it as though treasure, taking it out every day to look at it.
She would definitely be overjoyed to see two poems from Wang Chong at a single go.
On top of that, Wang Chong’s poems were not ordinary. Perhaps Wang Chong himself was unaware of it but his poems possessed great power. Take for example the poem he wrote the previous time, it crafted Her Highness’s name as the number one beauty in the palace.
If he could write a few more of such poems, wouldn’t that help Her Highness to stabilize her standing in the royal court? If Her Highness’s standing becomes stable, so would his.
Yang Zhao still understood this kind of basic concept.
“He is indeed a great person!”
Seeing Wang Chong lift his brush, Yang Zhao couldn’t help but feel agitated.
On the other hand, seated behind the study table, Wang Chong lifted his brush, and without any hesitation, he began writing the 《Song of Purity and Peace 3》.
Compared to the 《Song of Purity and Peace 2》, which was filled with contention and nearly caused Li Bai’s head to be lopped off, this poem was much more peaceful.
However, there was a specific order to the three poems of the Song of Purity and Peace.
Without the second poem, Wang Chong dared not to take out the third one.
“Consort Taizhen is already conferred as a consort at this point, so the 《Song of Purity and Peace 3》 fits the context well.”
Wang Chong thought as he started writing.
“The queen of flowers and all forsaking beauty are befitting company of jollity.”
The words were squiggly, but somehow, there was a refreshing grace to it, bringing out very unique aesthetics. Without any hesitation, Wang Chong continued on.
“That often has the smiling Emperor happily look on.”
“Released into infinite spring breezes are his countless worries.”
“Together they recline against the northern balustrade of the Aloewood Pavilion.”
Finishing the four lines of forty-two words, Wang Chong felt as though he was relieved of a heavy burden.
“I heard that the Aloewood Pavilion within the palace is extremely beautiful. Lord Yang, you should advise Her Highness to visit there occasionally to savor the scenery when she has time.”
After finishing those words, Wang Chong picked up the two papers and passed it over to Yang Zhao.
Yang Zhao hurriedly took them and rolled them up carefully before keeping them in his sleeves.
“Wang gongzi is indeed a man of great talents. You are capable in both business and academics. On top of that, you have King Song’s trust and the protection of the hundreds of officials. I hope that we can interact more in the future.”
“Of course, of course. Lord Yang, feel free to come here. Wang Chong welcomes you here anytime.”
Wang Chong bowed politely in return.
The current Yang Zhao was already on the route to becoming ‘Guozhong’. From what Wang Chong remembered, he was less than a year away from becoming the Imperial Uncle, and thus making the leap from Yang Zhao to ‘Yang Guozhong’.
At the same time, ‘Consort Taizhen’s’ conferment would be raised from that of a Virtuous Consort to a Noble Consort as well.
The gears of history were already turning, and Wang Chong could do little to stop it. All he could do now was to adapt and make use of it!
“Shen Hai! Bring five thousand gold taels here and gift them to Lord Yang.”
Harboring such thoughts, Wang Chong instructed.
“Yes, I’ll work on it now!”
Footsteps sounded, and Shen Hai quickly disappeared from sight.
“This… How can I accept your gift?”
Yang Zhao was taken aback at first before a smile gradually bloomed on his face.
“There’s no need for Lord Yang to be so polite. It’s a token of my goodwill, so there’s no need for Lord Yang to think too much of it.”
Wang Chong waved his hands casually.
“Hehe, there’s no need to address me as Lord Yang or that sort, just call me Brother Yang. Wang gongzi, since we seem to get along well, why don’t we become sworn brothers?”
Staring at Wang Chong, a thought flashed across Yang Zhao’s mind and he suddenly proposed an idea.
“Become sworn brothers?”
Wang Chong was stunned. His first reaction was that Yang Zhao was joking with him. After all, Yang Zhao was already approaching forty whereas he was only a fifteen-year-old kid. How could they become sworn brothers given the disparity in age?
He had heard of friendship transcending age, but he had never heard of sworn brotherhood transcending it as well!
However, looking straight into Yang Zhao’s eyes, Wang Chong realized that the other party regarded the matter seriously.
After the initial bewilderment, joy gradually crept into Wang Chong’s heart.
Isn’t this what he wanted?
This fellow was bound to become a great figure in the future. Wang Chong had only intended to gift the other party some money to win his goodwill, but the other party went further to propose a sworn brotherhood. He suddenly realized that conventions didn’t matter a thing to Yang Zhao.
In that instant, Wang Chong felt utmost respect for this future Imperial Brother. Compared to him, be it means or shamelessness, Wang Chong realized he was far too lacking.
It was no wonder why the other party was able to become a powerful force in Great Tang in the future.
“Why? Is Wang gongzi unwilling?”
Yang Zhao asked. He had only proposed the idea on a whim, intending to only give it a try. If Wang Chong was unwilling, he wouldn’t force it on him.
“Hehe, how can that be?”
Wang Chong chuckled lightly.
“It’s just that I didn’t think big brother will hold me with such high regard, I am overjoyed. Since that’s the case, why don’t we conduct the ceremony today?”
“Hahaha, seems like our thoughts coincide. Good! Let’s become swear to brotherhood today then!”
Yang Zhao replied delightfully.
Wang Chong was an offspring of Duke Jiu, a member of a distinguished clan. On top of that, he possessed King Song’s trust, and his memorial had won him the respect of the officials of the royal court and the admiration of the border generals. He was the rising star in the royal court, and his future would definitely be great.
In terms of position, Wang Chong was far superior to him.
Honestly, Yang Zhao had only proposed the brotherhood to try his luck. He didn’t think that Wang Chong would agree to it so readily. To him, this was an unexpected gain.
The Wang Clan had ready-made red candles required for the ceremony. Making use of this opportunity, Yang Zhao hurriedly pulled Wang Chong before the altar of deities and kowtowed three times. Following which, they cut a small incision on their forefingers and dripped their blood into a pot of water. After drinking it and making their vows, they officially became sworn brothers.
The duo stood up, and staring at one another, they burst into laughter.
“Hahaha, Wang Chong, from today onward, you’ll be my brother. Anyone who wishes to do you harm will be an enemy of mine. Since Her Highness is my younger sister, she’ll become your older sister. Remember to visit the palace often so that we can closen our relationship.”
Yang Zhao patted Wang Chong’s shoulders forcefully.
“Hahaha, big brother, there’s no need for you to be so formal. If you’ve any needs, feel free raise them with me.”
Wang Chong chuckled as well.
“Hehe, I’m actually a little short on money at the moment so I won’t stand on ceremonies with you. However, I didn’t come empty-handed today. I have a present for you as well. However, you should only open it after I leave.”
Yang Zhao suddenly passed a box over with a mysterious expression on his face.
Surprised, Wang Chong’s attention was piqued.
“Hehe, don’t forget about it, open it only after I’m gone.”
Yang Zhao chuckled as he pressed down on the lid of the box.
“It’s getting late now, and Her Highness is still waiting for me in the palace. You’ve just been released from jail, and there are a lot of other people you’ve to meet so I won’t impose on you any longer.”
“Big brother, I’ll walk you out.”
Wang Chong walked Yang Zhao all the way to the door, until he stepped into his carriage. Of course, by then, the gift Wang Chong prepared for him was already loaded inside the carriage. However, it wasn’t just five thousand gold taels but fifty thousand!
This was Wang Chong’s present to his sworn brother!
《Memorial For Xu Jingye Against Wu Zhao》
Wu Zhao is Wu Zetian’s name, whereas Xu Jingye is a general during that time which died due to Wu Zetian.
In short, this is a letter denouncing Wu Zetian by Poet Luo Binwang. However, it’s said that the words used were extremely emotional and powerful, and Wu Zetian smiled while reading the document, impressed by the other party’s literary skills.
Luo Binwang is a renowned poet during that time, and he was dubbed was one of the Four Paragons of Great Tang. (Back then, Li Bai wasn’t born yet)
《Records of Ancient Text》
Wikipedia: Guwen Guanzhi
It is a compilation of the notable literary works throughout China’s history in 1695, Qing Dynasty.
Reference for Song of Purity and Peace 3: https://28utscprojects.wordpress.com/tang320/