Emblem of the Phoenix

Emblem of the Phoenix

Chapter 2 - The Prime Minister's Marriage Proposal

It was already late at night when Mingde returned home. The palace had already sent someone to explain the reason why the Emperor summoned him, only saying that the palace servants testified that he had an affair with a concubine, but after the Emperor's interrogation, it was confirmed to be a false accusation, and thus he was bestowed fine wine to calm his nerves.

Minister Shangguan had not slept all night, his old face flushed red as he paced back and forth in the room. Seeing Mingde enter, he immediately scolded, "You good-for-nothing! Who did you offend to bring such false accusations upon yourself?"

Mingde stood in the hall, silent and unresponsive.

"You're a disgrace, only knowing how to idle around and not doing anything proper! How could the Shangguan family have raised someone like you in vain? If you bring any trouble, never mind if it kills you, but don't drag our entire family of over a hundred people down with you!"

Minister Shangguan was filled with resentment and was about to scold more when he heard a servant whisper outside the door, "Master, Prime Minister Xia has come to visit and is currently waiting in the hall."

Minister Shangguan let out an "ah" and hurriedly stepped forward, instantly changing his face to a smile, repeatedly saying, "How could such an honored guest come? Quickly invite him in, quickly!"

Seeing that his father had temporarily forgotten about him, Mingde yawned and turned to go back to sleep. The winter morning was very cold outside, the frost not yet melted. Laughter could be vaguely heard not far from the courtyard. A person was heard fawningly saying, "The young master's arm strength is remarkable at such a young age. In the future, you will surely be able to shoot a hundred paces, truly a hero from a young age!"

It turned out to be Shangguan Quan, the eldest legitimate son of the Shangguan family, practicing archery. With a whoosh, he drew his bow and in an instant, the arrow hit the bullseye. The surrounding servants and maids all cheered.

Madam Zhang, the principal wife of the Shangguan family, smiled and pulled the hand of a young lady beside her, saying, "Lady Xia, look at my little son only focused on practicing his archery, leaving you aside. Should he be punished or not?"

The girl beside her was Xia Rubing, the second daughter of Prime Minister Xia, who had come to visit with her father. Everyone knew that Prime Minister Xia's visit this time was to propose a marriage, and since none of the Shangguan family's sons were married yet, the proposal was naturally for the eldest son.

Xia Zheng had been the Prime Minister for over a decade and wielded great power in the court. His eldest daughter had married into the palace and was quite favored. The Xia family could be considered a top noble family in Chang'an. Madam Zhang felt it brought great honor for her son to marry such a family.

Xia Rubing's face had already turned red as she pulled her hand away, saying, "Madam Shangguan, what are you saying? I came to play with your daughter, not to make acquaintances with your son."

Shangguan Quan showed off by shooting ten arrows in a row, with nine hitting the target. Mingde watched him stand proudly amidst the surrounding crowd from behind the bushes and couldn't help but smile slightly before turning to leave.

But at this moment, Lingdang, Madam Zhang's head maid, spotted him. Lingdang didn't expect to see this young master from a concubine and hurriedly bowed clumsily, saying, "Young Master Mingde!"

Madam Zhang raised her eyes and saw Shangguan Mingde's figure flash by. Her face couldn't help but darken as she demanded, "Who's there?"

Mingde had no choice but to walk out from the bushes and bow to Madam Zhang from afar, "Madam, how are you?"

Seeing him wearing a single robe and looking hurried so early in the morning, Madam Zhang felt disgusted and asked those around, "Who dressed the young master like this? He is still a master after all. We can't let others say we mistreat him! Who is attending to him? Drag them out and give them a beating!"

Mingde said, "It's not their fault. Father summoned me early in the morning, so I hurried over."

Madam Zhang felt even more disdainful and sneered, "You don't need to say it, I know you detest your father's teachings. Who's as noble as you? Your elder brother reads and practices archery at the crack of dawn, while you are carefree and leisurely, who knows what you do all day!"

Mingde remained silent. Madam Zhang pulled Lady Xia's hand and pointed at him, saying, "This is an honored guest of our family. Seeing her, do you not have any manners? Who taught you to be so unfit for public appearance!"

Mingde then bowed slightly to Xia Rubing, "Mm, Lady Xia."

But Xia Rubing's face alternated between green and red as she hurriedly turned away.

Although everyone said her father's trip was to betroth her to the Shangguan family's eldest legitimate son, only she herself knew that her father wanted to betroth her to Shangguan Mingde, the mediocre son of a concubine before her eyes.

She had cried and asked her father why. He only said that as a woman, she didn't understand anything. Xia Zheng wielded the same authority in court and at home. No one could refute his words.

Her mother couldn't bear to see her youngest daughter marry poorly and tried to persuade her father, "No matter what, our daughter is a legitimate young lady. Even if she marries into a poor family, she should find a proper child of the principal wife. Apart from his good looks, that concubine's son Shangguan Mingde has no accomplishments or family property. Marrying him would mean our daughter must live according to her in-laws' moods."

Xia Zheng angrily said, "What do you know! You only see if he's a concubine's son. Do you know that Shangguan Mingde was imperially appointed as a secret guard at the age of fifteen? If he transfers from a secret guard to an official post, his starting position would at least be that of an Imperial Rider! Secret guards have no glory or accomplishments, but once they leave to join the military, they have limitless prospects! He is young, highly skilled in martial arts, and has always deeply enjoyed the Emperor's favor. Given time, he will surely achieve great things!"

This was all what Xia Zheng told his wife. Xia Rubing didn't know. Besides, even if she knew, she wouldn't be able to comprehend what being a secret guard in the palace meant.

Enduring a decade of trials and hardships in the imperial court may not compare to a year of life and death as a secret guard. Countless elite youths have died silently in this position. Those who survived are now kings of conquered lands on the borders or wield great military power. Shangguan Mingde entered the palace as a secret guard at fifteen. Although young, in terms of seniority, it's about time for him to transfer to an official post.

Once he leaves the secret guards to join the military, based on the Emperor's consistent favor, he would at least become an Imperial Rider or Deputy Commander. At that time, there will be many families in the capital wanting to marry their daughters to him. With Xia Rubing's appearance, she may not even get a turn.

Xia Rubing only thought her father's mind had become muddled, so she didn't think much of Shangguan Mingde and only had eyes for the youthful and handsome Shangguan Quan. Seeing Madam Zhang telling Mingde to greet her, she casually responded and retreated behind Madam Zhang.

Madam Zhang saw Mingde's nonchalant look and sneered, "I know you're impatient with my teachings. Judging from your appearance, you must resent me deeply, right? Let me tell you, it's better to study hard early on and pass the imperial exams to become a scholar or presented scholar! You ignorant thing, go!"

Mingde yawned silently and turned to walk towards his small courtyard.

Halfway there, he saw from afar a servant boy hurriedly running over from Minister Shangguan's side. The boy grabbed him and said, "Young master! The master is looking for you!"

"What's the matter?"

"I don't know, but the master is very angry! Young master, please come with us quickly!"

Minister Shangguan was still fuming silently, not daring to show it in front of his superior. He just sat in the hall drinking tea. Prime Minister Xia also didn't argue with him. Seeing Mingde enter, he smiled and asked, "How are you, my worthy nephew?"

With one look, Mingde knew that Prime Minister Xia had mentioned the marriage proposal. Xia Zheng held an important position and had the deep trust of the Qianwan Emperor. He was one of the few in the court who knew about the secret guards. But Xia Zheng didn't know that he, Shangguan Mingde, actually lived a very depressed life in his own home.

Mingde sighed inwardly, clasped his hands and said, "Thanks to your grace, my lord. It's just that regarding the matter of Lady Xia, I really cannot aspire that high."

Minister Shangguan was delighted. He had called Mingde over to hint at him to give up the marriage with the Xia family, letting this opportunity to attach himself to the dragon and phoenix go to his own eldest son. He originally thought Mingde would definitely want to use this chance to get ahead, and convincing him to give up would be very difficult.

But unexpectedly, Shangguan Mingde was so tactful and took the initiative to make his stance clear, saving him the trouble of wasting his breath.

Minister Shangguan took the opportunity to turn to Prime Minister Xia, "My lord, you see, this lowly official's pup is still young and immature, truly not a match for your esteemed daughter. However, this lowly official's eldest son has already reached marriageable age..."

The implication was obvious, but Xia Zheng ignored it and looked straight at Mingde, saying tactfully, "Mingde, although my little girl is clumsy, she excels in needlework and embroidery. The fortune-teller said she was born with a noble fate. This old man thinks that you, young talent, would be a perfect match for her. What do you think?"

Who knew that Shangguan Mingde would shake his head and say, "My lord praises me too much. I really cannot aspire to marry your esteemed daughter. Please go back, my lord."

Xia Zheng had never been so blatantly rejected to his face by such a young lad. He choked on his breath. Minister Shangguan hurriedly scolded, "Wretched child! How dare you speak like that? I've never raised such a lawless brat like you!"

Xia Zheng quickly stopped him, "Minister, no need to be angry. I think your son is just too young and inexperienced, feeling shy. After your son has considered it carefully for a few days, it won't be too late for me to visit again with my daughter."

Minister Shangguan personally saw the honored guest out. When they reached the gate with the horses and carriages, Xia Zheng looked around and saw no one from the Shangguan household. He suddenly turned and beckoned to Shangguan Mingde.

Mingde obediently walked over, "What is it, my lord?"

Xia Zheng pulled him, about to kneel.

Mingde made a move to support him, "My lord, what are you doing?"

Xia Zheng said, "This old man heard about what happened last night. Zhaoyi is still new in the palace and offended the Noble Consort for some reason, even implicating you, Mingde. This makes me feel ashamed!"

The curtain on the carriage lifted and Xia Rubing was shocked to see her father about to kneel before Shangguan Mingde.

Mingde looked at Prime Minister Xia for a long time before saying lightly, "My lord, what are you saying? I don't understand."

He turned to leave but Xia Zheng grabbed him, "Mingde! This old man can give up his pride, can't that be exchanged for a word from you?"

Mingde turned his head to look at him. After a long while, he sighed softly and said quietly, "The matters of the inner palace, how can I, a secret guard, interfere? The Noble Consort wants to kill Xia Zhaoyi out of jealousy and hatred, there's nothing I can do... If my lord pities his daughter, prepare a fine coffin within seven days."

Xia Zheng seemed struck by lightning, his face ashen as he froze on the spot.

Mingde took a few steps, but suddenly heard a thud behind him. Turning to look, he saw Prime Minister Xia forcefully pulling his second daughter as the father and daughter knelt on the ground together.

"Young master, please save my daughter's life!"

"What can I, a mere official, do to save your daughter!"

Xia Zheng crawled a few steps on his knees and came forward, choking with sobs, "If Zhaoyi loses favor, the Xia family is doomed! You, as a secret guard, can freely enter and exit the palace. Since you can report these secrets to this old man, you must know a way to save her!"

Mingde had no choice. He tried to pull up the father and daughter, one with each hand. While he managed to pull up Xia Rubing, he couldn't get Xia Zheng up. The old man who already knew his fate knelt there stiffly, a heartbreaking sight.

Mingde sighed deeply in frustration, "You, a prime minister, how can you be so unreasonable? If the older sister becomes someone's concubine, how can the younger sister properly become that person's son's principal wife? If Xia Zhaoyi doesn't die, how can the Empress give her sister to the Crown Prince as his principal wife!"

Xia Rubing stood there dumbfounded. Not only her, even Xia Zheng was completely stunned.

When he came to his senses, he kowtowed straight down, "Everything is entrusted to you, young master!"

Mingde pulled up Prime Minister Xia. Seeing no one around, he said in a low voice, "I don't want your thanks. In the future, when the young lady marries the Crown Prince, just remember the grace of the Empress and Crown Prince's support..."


Heya! I'm Leafy. My passion for stories is matched only by my love for the outdoors. As I translate, I draw inspiration from the tranquility of nature. Whether I'm translating or tending to my garden, I'm always finding new stories to share with you.

Give me feedback at moc.ebircssutol@yfael.