In the spring of the seventeenth year of Yuan Shun.
Lin Yuan sat by the window sill. This year was Xu Shouhui’s second year of reign and Han Lin’er’s third year of reign.
Originally this year should have been Zhang Shicheng’s fourth year of reign.
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Now, Zhang Shicheng was still called Zhang Jiusi, and he was a young general under Chen Baisong’s command. He made an outstanding military service and had been promoted three ranks in a row, his future bright and promising.
Chen Baisong had been keeping up his guard against him this whole time.
Lin Yuan sometimes also felt curious. Chen Baisong did not seem to be a person who possessed a calculating heart but he also seemed to be able to perceive the pros and cons by nature. He knew that once Zhang Jiusi became more powerful and prestigious than him, his position would be at stake. For the sake of avoiding this, he had to be better than Zhang Jiusi no matter what.
The general originally referred to the person who killed the most and the most skilled in killing. He couldn’t purposely suppress Zhang Jiusi. Because if he did he would appear guilty and fearful, and it would seem as if he was not as good as Zhang Jiusi and needed to rely on underhanded means. Therefore, the only way was to be stronger.
So strong that Zhang Jiusi couldn’t catch up to him.
Lin Yuan saw this, and was willing to help Chen Baisong.
Chen Baisong was his nanny brother. He and his mother had both received great kindness from the Lin family, and Chen Baisong had no wife and children. His deepest bond was his mother, so Lin Yuan was not worried about him committing betrayal. Even if he committed betrayal, Lin Yuan still had Li Congrong, Yang Zi’an and Zhu Yuanzhang, not to mention the young military officials under them.
Lin Yuan took a sip of cold tea, and felt that he seemed to have become more coldly rational and less emotional.
One couldn’t count on “feelings” for everything in this world. There were walls between even brothers. In modern times, many relatives could turn into enemies for such things as inheritance. They had the same blood flowing in their veins and yet they could do such things. He couldn’t bet on the human heart.
Therefore, Lin Yuan did not give the generals more power. They only needed to fight battles and not participate in politics or manage the people’s livelihood.
The generals were easy to handle, so long as there was no one single dominant general, with several generals they would always be able to check and balance each other.
However, that was not possible with civil officials. Lin Yuan’s most “favored” official now was Song Shizhao. Song Shizhao could suppress other civil officials, he was born with this ability. He wanted to be the most effective person around Lin Yuan and have Lin Yuan think about him when he met a problem, to be unable to do without him.
Lin Yuan was also willing to favor him before, but now it was different. If he continued to favor him, Song Shizhao would really fly up into the sky.
Although it didn’t seem the case on major issues, Song Shizhao showed clear signs that he couldn’t find his position recently. Lin Yuan wanted to change Pingjiang into a second Gaoyou. But Song Shizhao said to him: “My Lord has great wisdom, but Pingjiang is different from Gaoyou. The rule here in Pingjiang is…..”
He rambled on for awhile, the general meaning behind his words being that he felt that Lin Yuan’s ideas were good and must be good, and none of Lin Yuan’s ideas were bad.
But Pingjiang’s rule was also good. After all, it had been in place for so many years, and the people were doing well, so why bother to change it? No matter how much it changed, it would not be better than it was now, and instead only add a lot of trouble.
In view of their relationship, Lin Yuan could understand him.
No matter how forward Song Shizhao’s thinking was, he was, after all, a native born man of the ancient times. Perhaps in his eyes, Pingjiang’s rules were correct, and everything in Gaoyou was nonsensical, but at that time he dared not admonish Lin Yuan.
But in view of reason, Lin Yuan could not allow him to say such things. If put nicely, it was admonition, if put in an ugly sounding way, it was dominance. Did Song Shizhao really think he could control governmental orders?
Lin Yuan smiled and said, “Mr. Song is right, it is Yuan who is too impatient.”
From that day on, Lin Yuan did not see him again, and the news also spread quickly. In the past, there would be visitors in the Song Manor everyday, countless people coming to visit. Lin Yuan only just revealed a little bit of his discontent, and those people instantly stopped going.
After all, everyone would rather offend Song Shizhao than offend Lin Yuan.
Then Lin Yuan began to favor Song Lian and Wu Changqing.
When discussing matters now, it was Song Lian and Wu Changqing who sat immediately under him. Song Lian was a newcomer, and represented Lin Yuan’s desire for fresh talents, and Wu Changqing was a veteran official who was already there, and represented Lin Yuan’s promise to not just favor the new and forget the old.
Without Song Shizhao, there would be Wu Changqing; without Wu Changqing, there would be a Zhou Changqing or a Li Changqing.
Song Shizhao thought that he was irreplaceable, and now he regretted it.
“Laoye, have something to eat.” The servant handed Song Shizhao a bowl and chopsticks. There were porridge and side dishes on the table. Although it was not a rich meal, the vegetables were crisp and fresh, which was still gratifying.
Song Shizhao had difficulty swallowing the food. Bitterness filled his throat and whatever he ate tasted bland. He even vomitted when eating meat so he could only drink some porridge.
The servant could not convince him and could only put down the bowl and chopsticks and sit on the side.
Song Shizhao regretted it. He thought that Lin Yuan had a good temper and would not be angry about this, but he forgot that Lin Yuan was essentially an emperor in all but name. Although he was uncrowned, he was already the emperor.
It was fine to admonish a senior provincial official or admonish a villa master.
But as a courtier, admonishing the emperor was inherently dangerous. The emperor was the master of everything, and only his rules were rules, nothing else.
Thinking from Lin Yuan’s perspective, he could also understand why Lin Yuan was so angry.
When heard in Lin Yuan’s ears, didn’t his admonition essentially mean: “Your rules are not as good as the imperial court’s rules”?
Song Shizhao slapped himself.
After being careful and cautious for so long, he ruined it in one sentence.
If the courtiers admonished the emperor and the emperor listened, it was the emperor’s magnanimity, and could already be called a sage ruler.
If the emperor did not listen, what else could the courtiers do?
He miscalculated how much face he had in front of Lin Yuan.
If Lin Yuan was willing to give face, then he was the Manager Song who was flattered by everyone. Although he was not called prime minister, he still exercised a prime minister’s power.
If Lin Yuan was not willing to give face, then he was nothing.
“Manager Song.” Wu Changqing came in from the door. But seeing Song Shizhao drinking bitter wine alone, the smile on his face dimmed instantly and his brows wrinkled.
When Song Shizhao saw Wu Changqing, he remembered that his servant had come to inform him of the other’s visit that he had forgotten after drinking two sips of wine.
“District Chief Wu.” Song Shizhao got up, and the two bowed to each other.
Wu Changqing sat opposite Song Shizhao, and even took a cup and poured himself some wine: “You actually didn’t even warm it up, cold wine harms the body.”
Song Shizhao smiled: “District Chief Wu’s career is rapidly rising, Song gives congratulations.”
Wu Changqing waved his hand: “There is no need for Manager Song to get in a verbal fight with me.”
“I believe our Lord would not forget old affection.” Wu Changqing drank a sip of wine and shook his head as he said, “This wine is not bad, tasting sweet on the tongue. It is a rarity indeed.”
Song Shizhao: “The wine given by our Lord is naturally different from elsewhere.”
Wu Changqing looked at Song Shizhao, and he discovered for the first time that Song Shizhao was indeed very old. His face and hands were covered with age spots, and his energy was not as good as before. It seemed that he had aged ten years overnight.
Wu Changqing also sighed.
The Song Shizhao of before was so glorious. Although he was only in charge of merchants, their Lord would always discuss politics with him. His seat was also the first place at the bottom left of their Lord’s. Everyone called him Manager, but in their hearts they already saw him as the prime minister. Once their Lord ascended the throne Song Shizhao’s threshold would also become too high for others to touch.
But no matter how much honor and glory, it was no match for a look from their Lord.
There was no need for their Lord to say anything, so long as they weren’t given a chance to see him, would there be any less smart people below?
Those who their Lord wanted to step on, would there be anyone who would not follow along?
“What is Manager Song worried about?” Wu Changqing, “Worried about being disgusted by our Lord?”
Song Shizhao sighed, and said, “I am afraid that I will only be able to manage affairs related to merchants in the future.”
Wu Changqing chuckled and said: “What is there to worry about, nothing happening is a good thing.”
Song Shizhao shook his head: “On the contrary, demotion is the good thing.”
After demotion, there would always come a time for promotion, and only after their Lord finished teaching him a lesson could he continue to use him.
Hanging in the same place, neither high or low. He felt that he could live for a dozen more years but what if he was left hanging over these next dozen years?
“Our Lord is the master of sages.” Wu Changqing said, “Now it is the time for our Lord to establish prestige. Manager Song is so smart but can’t see through this matter?”
Song Shizhao sighed: “I am old, my old eyes are dim, and I speak before thinking.”
Wu Changqing smiled: “This time I managed to watch some excitement.”
Song Shizhao raised his cup to throw at him.
Only then did Wu Changqing cup his hands and say: “Manager Song, please do not be angry. It would be my sin if your health ails due to vexation.”
Song Shizhao coughed: “Now it is you who has the honor and glory.”
Wu Changqing: “Who said that is not the case? This is also the first time I know what it is like for my front yard to be as busy as a marketplace. I have six sons, but fortunately three of them are old enough. They are very busy receiving guests every day. It’s a good thing I have so many sons, otherwise I am afraid I would have no time to come and see you.”
Song Shizhao: “Someone come, please see District Chief Wu out the door! This person has no conscience at all!”
Wu Changqing laughed: “Manager Song doesn’t need to be impatient, Wu is standing in front of you, don’t you know our Lord’s meaning?”
Song Shizhao: “I understand, it’s just…..”
He just didn’t expect that Lin Yuan would let him off so easily.
And he also understood a little bit.
Whatever Lin Yuan planned, others only needed to follow and act according to his plan.
Lin Yuan could tolerate his ministers picking on details, but he could not tolerate their denial of his plans.
It was him, Song Shizhao who was given so much face in front of Lin Yuan that he had forgotten his place and duty.
Wu Changqing said: “Manager Song is different from me. You have been with our Lord from the start. It is easy to earn gold, but friendship is hard to find. Our Lord still thinks of you.”
Song Shizhao: “I understand.”
It was because of this that Lin Yuan didn’t punish him too severely. Otherwise, killing an old official like him would better show his intention for change and the matter would be easier to handle. But he didn’t do so, the result of which being more officials who would continue admonishing him, and the resistance would be even greater.
Song Shizhao: “Our Lord is soft-hearted!”
Song Shizhao said to Wu Changqing: “District Chief Wu, I’m not as good as you.”
Wu Changqing made a mistake, but he quickly found his place. He was willing to be their Lord’s pawn, a knife in his hand. He was a pure official.
Pure officials were the ones that their Lord lacked most now.
Song Shizhao cupped his hands at Wu Changqing and said willingly for the first time: “District Chief Wu will have a bright future. I hope that District Chief Wu’s original intentions will never change.”
Wu Changqing also said seriously: “By taking people as a mirror, this official and Manger will encourage each other.”
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The two smiled at each other, each raising a cup and throwing back the wine.
They both understood that after this night, they would still be friends as well as enemies.
In the future, there would only be one who would reach the highest official position.
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