FYC 109: Gnawing on Bones

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From a brief couple of sentences, Tang Fan’s mind was like a storm of waves, though that didn’t show on his surface, and he instantly figured many things out.

Clearly, this had been a trap all along. It could even be said that after Peng Hua had recommended him for being an East Palace tutor, and he had agreed to it, he had already stepped into this trap.

It was a trap not only targeting him, but the Crown Prince.

Currently, from an outsider’s point of view, there had to be one amongst Tang Fan and Lin Ying that was a liar.

Lin Ying had been appointed as Orator ever since the Prince had entered the Cabinet for study. Over the years, the Prince’s teachers had rotated, yet he had always been by his side, and due to his dependability and reliability, he deeply held the Prince’s confidence.

Even though the Prince had a special bond with Tang Fan, he trusted Lin Ying, too.

The evilness in this trap was that the one who had laid it out not only wanted to divide the relationship between the Crown Prince and Tang Fan, making the former think the latter to be undeserving of trust, but through him, the Prince would also be dragged into the water, suffering the Emperor’s dislike.

What was the problem with the Wude to Zhenguan period? Why would the Emperor intentionally tell Lin Ying to skip over it?

Tang Fan was quite familiar with the Mirror, and quickly thought of the key issue therein.

In the sixth month of the final year of Wude, not long after the establishment of the Great Tang Dynasty, there had come a coup d’etat, following which had been the rebellion of Xuanwu Gate that all knew of. If the Emperor didn’t wish for the tutors to teach in detail from those years, then it ought to be because of this portion of history.

Still, for that coup d’etat, regardless of whether it was a new or old Tang book or the Mirror, historians generally held a positive assessment in their comprehension of Taizong of Tang. There was no taboo to be touched upon. Why would the Emperor not let it be taught?

After thinking about it, Tang Fan felt that the issue might be Taizong’s slaying of his brother.

Those thoughts were naught more than sparks streaking past the mind. If he wanted to get past the obstacle before him, he couldn’t reveal the slightest bit of panicky emotions, as that would not only do nothing helpful, but make it easy for others to misunderstand.

He collected himself. “Answering Your Majesty, this subject dares to pledge to my ancestors and the world itself that I never heard Orator Lin say such a thing. Furthermore, when I was giving lessons, Orator Lin was attending at his side. If there was an issue, why had he not brought it up at that time?”

In this day and age, it was extremely serious to pledge to one’s ancestors and world. Hearing this, the Emperor looked at Lin Ying.

“Your Majesty, this subject also dares to pledge to my ancestors and the world that I did indeed explain this to Teacher Tang. However, when this segment was mentioned earlier, I happened to have taken a leave of sickness. The Court of Education has record of such.”

This was just great. One said he had, one said he hadn’t, both had been present, and both had pledged heavy oaths. Who was actually telling the truth, and who was lying, was something only a heaventsent genius would know.

However, if Tang Fan became seated with the accusation of deliberately violating a taboo and not taking the Emperor’s words seriously, then bore the charge of beguiling the Crown Prince, it would not only be him that would be out of luck, but the Prince would suffer the effects, too. The Wan party would be given an opportunity, and those close to the Prince would believe that Tang Fan had implicated the Prince, inevitably coming to hate him to the bone.

Thinking up such, in spite of Tang Fan’s calmness, he knew that this present situation was wholly disadvantageous to him.

He imperceptibly raised his head, gaze flickering across everyone’s faces, from Lin Ying’s calm, to the Prince’s uncertainty and lack of sureness on who to believe, to the unhappy Emperor. Quickly taking his line of sight back, he cupped his hands. “Your Majesty, those in the know know the truth themselves, but only Orator Lin and I were on-scene at the time. Who is right and who is wrong is on the basis of conscience, and more wrangling about it will do nothing. However, this subject is confused about one thing. Please clarify, Your Majesty.”

“Speak.”

“I am unsure of what is taboo in the seven years of Wude to the first year of Zhenguan. Please elaborate.”

Having biased thoughts, the Emperor’s tone was naturally poor. “We ask you this. ‘Taizong committed the incident Xuanwu Gate, but this did not hinder his monarchy.’ Have you ever said that to the Prince?”

“Yes.”

“Then what are you still blubbering for? We willed for the tutors to bypass this section of the Mirror precisely because of the Xuanwu Gate incident! Taizong had no choice, but that was ultimately his brother — is you saying this to the Prince not you deliberately having the heart for instigation, implying that he should strike first so as to not be bound by his brother later?”

There was no issue with the Xuanwu Gate incident in and of itself; it was just an ordinary historical fact. Although that regent had had a slight defect to him, the whitewashing of successive historians had made this not a big deal. Whenever anyone lectured about history, they would generally not skip over it on purpose.

And yet, rot was afoot. A few days ago, Consort Wan had suddenly become interested in reading history, so she’d had people find books for her, then put together tales to be told for her to hear after interpretation, chatting to pass the time.

When Chenghua had come to visit her, she had happened to be listening to the section about Taizong, and she said to him, “Carnage at Xuanwu Gate, brothers destroying each other… to the end, it is nothing pretty. The Prince is young and of unset nature; if someone uses history as a mirror to deliberately mislead him, he will inevitably go down a wayward path. Tales like this would best be taught less, and the tutors should be made to make more anecdotes about filial brotherhood and respect.”

It had to be said that in Chenghua’s eyes, Consort Wan had not a thing bad about her, and whatever she said had reason to it, even if it really didn’t. He had been deeply convinced by her, agreeing, then had given Lin Ying the order to have the East Palace tutors skip over several sections of content in the Mirror.

If the Emperor hadn’t given the order, Tang Fan teaching it would have been fine. Those ignorant made no crime. However, as the Emperor clearly had, Tang Fan had thus ‘secretly opposed’ him, disregarding imperial orders. This was called knowing something was a crime, yet doing it anyways, and harboring unfathomable schemes, a first-class offense.

To speak of this matter with brief finality, if the father completely trusted his son, trouble wouldn’t be stirred up so easily like this. Sadly, the talk on the father’s pillow was too strong; compared to Lady Wan, the Prince really was just a son.

The most terrible thing about this was that the Emperor had no shortage of sons. And, to tell the truth, his favorite child was not this current Crown Prince, but both of his older brothers that had died young.

One had been born from Consort Wan, but had passed before he had reached his first birthday, not even having the time to get his big name. The premature death of this son had left a deep-set wound in the Emperor’s heart, and he believed that if the child still lived, he would definitely be a peerlessly heroic Crown Prince, the most outstanding successor.

The other one was Crown Prince Daogong. The child had also once had the Emperor’s high expectations, as could be seen from the fact that he had been sealed as the Crown Prince at the age of two, but he hadn’t been able to keep him, either.

Therefore, the current Crown Prince was truly apprehensive and could have no fun, forced to face daily traps that had been dug out in wait for him to jump down into them, and the slander of prigs.

What was happening right now was no more than a change of tricks. Someone outside was sorting out Tang Fan, but their ultimate, actual target was still the Prince.

Tang Fan solemnly cupped his hands. “Your Majesty, please retract your statement about this subject instigating and beguiling — I dare not bear it! I spoke of Xuanwu Gate precisely for it to be a warning to His Highness to have love for his brothers and respect for his parents, and that there is not a bit of similarity between him and Taizong of Tang. When Taizong had not yet ascended, he was only the Second Prince, while the Crown Prince above him was undeserving of the name. His Highness is the eldest son, has been dubbed the Crown Prince by you for going on ten years, and he deserves his name, as he is known throughout the realm; how could he ever imitate Xuanwu Gate’s incident? Only someone with errant thoughts would decide to place the incident upon the Prince’s head to strike him first, because in the midst of framing this subject, the Prince has also been framed as unrighteous! Please have wisdom, Your Majesty!”

“Impudent!” The Emperor was furiously angry. Tang Fan’s words undoubtedly held the implication that someone was slandering to his face, but the one who had spoken had been Consort Wan. How could he tolerate anyone saying that she was wrong?

“Father Emperor, quell your anger!” the Prince said anxiously. “Teacher Tang was only speaking thoughtlessly in a moment of panic! Ever since he became an official, he has repeatedly cracked bizarre cases, and has an amazing political voice. He is not someone who harbors unfathomable motives! Please, Father Emperor, be magnanimous! You must not bicker with him!”

He was no imbecile. Had he still not been able to tell who was actually telling the truth and who was lying between Lin Ying and Tang Fan, then him being the Crown Prince would be in vain.

His words had minute efficacy. The Emperor was truly appalled by Tang Fan’s statements, not only because the latter had laid his thoughts bare, but because he had spoken poorly of his favorite woman.

Tang Fan had been forced to do so, however. If he didn’t speak loudly and with an impassioned attitude to indicate his standpoint, he would only attract even worse suspicion. In any case, he had made the Prince believe him to be innocent.

The Emperor called in his attendant, pointing at Tang Fan. “Oust him from the palace! We never want to see him again!”

Panicking, the Prince quickly took some steps forward. “Father Emperor, hear what this son has to say…”

The man looked at him. “After hearing of Xuanwu Gate, what were your thoughts, Crown Prince?”

“No matter how unmatchably heroic Taizong of Tang was, Xuanwu Gate was nothing but brothers destroying each other. It was nothing pleasant,” the Prince answered automatically. “When learning history, it is used as a mirror to distinguish right from wrong, not to copy and blindly follow. That is exactly what Teacher Tang taught me!”

“Please know, Your Majesty, that that was indeed my intent,” Tang Fan picked up. “Whether in Tang stories or the Mirror as written by Lord Sima, there were an inexhaustible number of disasters during this time period that had stemmed from brothers fighting amongst each other. Examples would be the calamity of Emperor Wen of Sui’s two sons, and Emperor Jing of Han’s rebellion of the seven states, which historians do not shun. Even if this subject did not teach the Prince about the Xuanwu Gate incident, when we speak of such things from now on, would we be able to avoid every possible instance of it? Historians write history precisely to warn future generations to never repeat those mistakes. I believe that instead of shunning illness and avoiding medicine, it is better to take history as a reflection. His Highness is the heir apparent, and it is even more imperative that he is well-versed in past and present matters, and behaves honestly. Only after learning from the examples of his predecessors can he become exceptional.”

Hearing this, the Prince automatically gave a slight sigh of relief, and he looked up at the Emperor.

As expected, even though the latter’s expression hadn’t cleared, he did not become as violently furious as he had before.

At this moment, Lin Ying piped up from the side. “Your Majesty, this subject did convey your orders to Teacher Tang. I beg that you reinstate my innocence.”

Who wouldn’t have said the same thing? “This subject also begs that you reinstate my innocence!” Tang Fan said.

Chenghua looked at the Prince. “Who do you believe?”

“The truth has not yet been made clear. Teacher Tang and Lin Ying each gave conflicting statements. If this son hastily draws a conclusion, it will err into subjectivity, so I dare not say.”

The Emperor’s brow furrowed. His anger had come quick, and left just as quick. When it came to this he-said, she-said stuff, there was no evidence on either side, both were saying that they were innocent, and he felt an unending headache. “Forget it. The bottom of this will not be reached for a time. The day is late, so this will be discussed tomorrow. You all should retire first.”

The three agreed, bowed, then withdrew together.

“Orator Lin, stop!” the Prince called out to Lin Ying, who was about to leave, right as they came out.

“What is your order, Your Highness?” Lin Ying was respectful, as if nothing had happened.

“Why would you frame Teacher Tang?”

“Dare I ask, how long has this subject served at your side?” Lin Ying countered without answering.

“Ever since I went to study in the Cabinet, you have followed me.”

“Then, this subject will have the audacity to ask — how long has Teacher Tang been instructing you?”

The Prince choked on his words.

Tang Fan looked at him coldly, knowing that with how Lin Ying had inverted black and white before the Emperor, the young Prince could never be his opponent.

Seeing that the Prince wasn’t answering, Lin Ying said, “Our forebears once said that clothes are better new, but friends are better old. This subject has served you for several years, and my loyalty is well-known. Why do you believe him, but not me, Your Highness?”

“Orator Lin, you sure are hilarious,” Tang Fan said coldly. “Have you not heard that when vipers want to bite someone, they typically lie in wait for a long time, watching their target before they make their move? According to you, every single friend in the world is undyingly loyal, so why did Hou Junji betray Taizong of Tang? All for just fame and profit, no less? I’m just wondering this: which type are you after, Orator Lin?”

He hadn’t wanted to gripe with Lin Ying here, but tonight’s incident was a real, unmitigated disaster. Even if the Buddha was here, there would be fire, and Tang Fan was no saint; he couldn’t keep down his ridicule forever.

Unexpectedly, Lin Ying was the same type of person. Hearing that, he answered, “Whatever type you are after is whatever type I am after.”

“Paths that don’t align will not conspire together. Why am I hearing something about a gentleman conspiring with a peon?” Tang Fan replied placidly. Saying so, he quit speaking to Lin Ying, turning to cup his hands at the Prince. “This subject has some words I would like to share with you, Your Highness. Please step off to the side.”

The Prince gave Lin Ying a look. The latter wasn’t going to shamelessly insist upon listening in, immediately cupping his hands and withdrawing.

“Your Highness, what happened tonight was set up by the other party step by step, fastened link by link. I’m afraid that planning began from right when I was assigned to be an East Palace tutor.”

As of right now, further complaints would be of no use. Tang Fan had been thinking up of countermeasures following the confrontation with the Emperor.

“Those who know, know. I don’t wish to argue on my own behalf more, but Lin Ying is someone you must be guarded against.” He looked at the Prince. “I am not saying this for my own sake. You should know this, Your Highness.”

Truthfully, Lin Ying had acted overly collected, and no matter what his status or motive was, there had not been a single reason at all for him to frame Tang Fan. This was why, despite the Crown Prince knowing that Tang Fan had very likely been accused unjustly logically, he still couldn’t help but waver emotionally. Upon hearing Tang Fan’s statement, he felt slightly ashamed. “It was me that was useless, unable to clear your name.”

Tang Fan laughed. “That isn’t important. This subject is insignificant in power, so their aim was not actually me. After this, I surmise that someone will use this to speak to His Majesty and claim that snakes are mixed in with the dragons at your side, who will inevitably hold back your studies and mislead you. They will submit a request for him to re-vet your instructors in order to eliminate those that are genuinely loyal to you, causing your voice in Court to be completely cut off.”

The Prince was terrified at that. “What should I do, then?”

Tang Fan shook his head. “There is no need to do anything. Doing more makes more mistakes, doing less makes less mistakes. Keep watch for the clouds to part and reveal the moon’s brightness. Those loyal to you will keep you in mind regardless. If I bear the blame, or the other teachers get removed from their teaching positions, it would be best for you to not come forth.”

“Has it really reached such a serious plight?” the boy asked, hesitant.

“This subject hopes not too, as if it isn’t, that would also be best. Unfortunately, after this, I’m afraid that I will not be able to continue teaching you. Please forgive me.”

Saying so, he cupped his hands, making a deep bow towards the Prince.

Tears in his eyes, the Prince tightly clutched his hand. “I’m sorry, Teacher Tang. I believe you. I should not have doubted you alongside him. Please take care, there will be a day… I…”

Tang Fan gripped his arm back, tightening to stop the Prince’s following words. “What happens after will be discussed after. Real gold does not fear forging by fire; as I am innocent, I can pay no mind to any suspicion. Your hesitation just means that you have fond feelings; what’s the crime in that? Protect yourself, Your Highness. Here, I will withdraw.”

What needed to be said had been said. This was not a place to remain in for long, and he said no more, immediately taking his leave.

The night’s darkness was vast. Tang Fan’s figure quickly vanished into it.

After evening came, the Forbidden City would look to be beyond vacuous. Lanterns glinted like stars in the distance, yet they couldn’t light up such an enormous area.

The Crown Prince stood there blankly, only feeling an extreme loneliness.

Meanwhile, Tang Fan left the palace under the guidance of an attendant, then sighted Wang Zhi, who was impatiently waiting outside the gates.

Not waiting for Tang Fan to come forth, he busily walked forward a few steps. “I heard that you angered His Majesty?”

No secrets were to be had in the palace. As early as when the Emperor had flown into a thunderous rage, the news had already reached Wang Zhi’s ears.

Tang Fan concealed nothing, giving a rough explanation of what had happened.

After hearing it all, Wang Zhi’s face was quite unsightly, yet he couldn’t reproach Tang Fan for his brusque words.

In these circumstances, Tang Fan reacting calmly would have instead caused people to be suspicious. On top of that, he was the one that had originally suggested that Tang Fan accept the role. Now that something had happened, it could only be said that those that wanted them downtrodden were too cunning. Wang Zhi had never expected that they would think to get at the Crown Prince by getting something on Tang Fan.

“I asked around about this,” Wang Zhi said. “This is related to Consort Wan.”

Tang Fan was puzzled. “What happened?”

“She had people lecture her on history one day, and when she heard the Xuanwu Gate part, she felt it to be too bloody. Fearing that the young Prince would be affected by it, she proposed to His Majesty that it should be skipped over, but you got caught by Lin Ying.”

Tang Fan smiled bitterly. “Such a thing went on? No wonder His Majesty got so furious. I might as well be justly dead.”

Wang Zhi was quiet.

With how obedient the Emperor was to Lady Wan, even the shady deaths of princes would not be investigated. Moreover, the Consort had only asked after the Crown Prince’s studies; although she did not have the Empress title, she was an Empress in reality, and in the Emperor’s eyes, there was nothing unsuitable about this.

To be honest, this game might have already been set starting from Consort Wan’s proposal, meaning Tang Fan had been destined to be unfortunate.

Wang Zhi’s feelings towards Consort Wan were quite complex. No matter what outsiders thought of her, without her, there would be no him today.

Everyone else could be ungrateful in the face of grace. He alone could not. Even if he turned hostile with the Wan party, it was aimed only at the party, not involving her at all.

In his mind, she was very special.

Tang Fan had no intent to make things hard for him. “This wasn’t your fault. No one could have expected it. You don’t need to blame yourself too much.”

Wang Zhi side-eyed him. “Why are you being so overinvested? When have I ever blamed myself?”

“…”

Right. In Eunuch Wang’s lifelong maxim, there was likely self-confidence, self-conceit, and self-inflated ego, but there was no self-blame.

He was speechless for a short time before continuing. “His Majesty has rarely ever killed major subjects after ascending, so I certainly won’t lose my head over this. At most, I’ll suffer a bit of a beating, or be dismissed. This wouldn’t be the first time, anyways. The most pressing matter is for me to trouble you with letting Huai En know about this. The Crown Prince has one Lin Ying planted beside him, so I’m not sure if a second Lin Ying is around. Huai En cares for His Highness, and he will surely know what to do.”

Wang Zhi hummed. “I understand. Go on back, I’ll do all I can to turn this around for you.”

Tang Fan merely cupped his hands. Everyone was familiarized here, so there was no need for excess words, everything going unsaid.

After this event, despite the Emperor not immediately calling for Tang Fan to be dealt with, he could no longer so thick-facedly enter the palace. He didn’t even go to the Inspectorate, remaining home for self-reflection. According to standards, a manifest of self-defense, apology, and whatnot was to be sent up, the wording inside of the memorial to be contrary to that night’s ferocity, having tactful language and speaking of his own past, from his start as a Palace Honorate, to his midway dismissal and renewal. All of it had been a sea of divine mercy, he had put his all into it, and had not yet had enough time to give back to the county and display his loyalty — how could he ever knowingly do wrong, and have unfathomable motives?

Tang Fan did not act according to average procedure, which would be to first go into the Office of Transmissions, which would then pass the memorial to the Cabinet, which would finally present it to the Emperor. On the contrary, he had Sui Zhou bring it directly into the palace for the Emperor to view.

Of course, if the Emperor knew that Mister Tang — whose every word in the memorial wept with blood, who itched to mutilate himself to portray his innocence — was presently at home, happily gnawing on saucy bones, who knew what he would be feeling?

Just as Tang Fan had predicted, after this, the Wan party really did use the excuse of ‘snakes are mixed in with dragons in the East Palace, benevolent and not are unseparated, and Your Majesty should deal with this as soon as possible, lest the Prince’s lessons be held up,’ requesting that the Emperor replace those around the Crown Prince. The Emperor still wasn’t sure who between Lin Ying and Tang Fan was actually lying; in his opinion, the Prince’s attendants were indeed of errant minds, so he agreed.

From that point on, apart from those former Cabinet Great Scholars that still had their names, not only were the East Palace tutors all purged, but even the Court of Education’s group was. Because Xie Qian had a good friendship with Tang Fan, he hadn’t been able to flee, but Huai En later spoke to the Emperor, which allowed him to keep being a tutor for the Crown Prince.

Even so, after this fracas, the Crown Prince’s power and morale was heavily injured, and he likely wouldn’t have the power to contend with the Wan party for the time being. The party hadn’t been able to pull him off of his horse, but they had achieved their goal of clipping his wings.

It was unclear whether Tang Fan was lucky or unlucky, but before the Emperor could deal with him, something big happened in Suzhou.

[End of Arc 8: Into the East Palace]


The translator says: The Simperor strikes again. DISGOSTING
The author’s mini-theatre:
Wang Zhi: Well, I really miscalculated this. I didn’t expect that they would be so treacherous! It isn’t that our army was too incompetent, but that the enemy army was too cunning!
Tang Fan: Let it be, I didn’t expect it, either. Can anyone really tell the future?
Wang Zhi: In any case, I’ll owe you a favor this time.
Tang Fan: Seriously?
Wang Zhi, annoyed: When has this eunuch ever gone back on my words?
Tang Fan: In that case, I want free lifetime memberships to Immortal Guest and Immortal Cloud!
Wang Zhi: …Get away from me.

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Character Guide and Glossary

7 thoughts on “FYC 109: Gnawing on Bones

  1. Odeio esse imperador de merda! Ele coloca sentimentos no lugar da razão. Tenho certeza que se em um momento na história chegarem a dizer que consorte Wan matou alguém, o imperador ainda não acreditaria mesmo se mostra-se as provas na cara dele. 😐

    Tadinho do Tang Fan e o príncipe herdeiro tava amando relação professor-aluno. 🎀

    Muito obrigada pela tradução ChiChi🤗 espero ansiosamente por mais 🎉🎊

    Like

  2. Thank you for your hard work!

    Oh dear, the poor prince! And Tang Fan of course, but we need him to be out and about solving cases after all, don’t we, haha =)

    Like

  3. How long did Tang Fan teach? About a month if I vaguely recall by Sui Zhou’s “wedding”? It’s going to be a short line on his resume. XD

    That said, the mere existence of competent emperors is a complete miracle when you see how they had to be raised in the palace… It sometimes feels like what the Crown Prince needs is just a hug.
    And once again I really enjoy how the author makes Tang Fan shine without breaking the historical context, the villains danger factor or her characters consistency.

    Thank you for the translation of this arc!

    Like

  4. Well….at least he isn’t dead? Still seems deeply unpleasant. Such a shame—I was really enjoying Tang Fan’s teacher-pupil interactions with the crown prince.

    Thank you for translating!

    Like

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