Chapter 17: Similar In Appearance.

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In the East, the dawned sky was as white as marble.
At that time, Mu Zhiming had accompanied Fu Ji’an to study at the South Academy in the Imperial Palace.

In the South Academy, Mu Boren had long been waiting for them.
As the youths saluted Mu Boren, Fu Ji’an addressed him as ‘Xiansheng1’.
When Mu Zhiming and Fu Ji’an turned their heads, they weren’t surprised to see….the Fifth Prince, Fu Yi.

For the past three months, Fu Yi had been the first to attend the South Academy every day, memorizing the Four Books and Five Scriptures with great aptitude, always asking for advice.
Although Fu Yi was already talented and intelligent, he still had to study as diligently as the rest.
Even Mu Boren, who doesn’t compliment others easily, had some respect for Fu Yi.

Despite the fact that Mu Zhiming knew that Fu Yi was cruel and unscrupulous2, with a ruthlessly vicious heart, his pretense was really convincing.

Fu Ji’an was still young and was unaware of the unfathomable truth: that the human heart was unpredictable.
Since Fu Ji’an and Fu Yi had a close relationship, Fu Ji’an enthusiastically greeted him: “Imperial Brother! You are always the first to arrive at the Academy, I admire you so much!”

Mu Zhiming followed Fu Ji’an, moving forward.
Although polite, Mu Zhiming saluted with a clear indifference: “Greetings, Fifth Prince.”

Mu Zhiming couldn’t help, but stop and think: ‘If Fu Yi was really reborn, doesn’t he have a guilty conscience after hearing how Fu Ji’an treats him with such brotherly love?’

As Fu Yi put down the book in his hand, he said with a smile: “I’m used to getting up early in the morning.
There’s nothing to admire about that.
Lizhu, you don’t need to salute me, please stand up.”

“Exactly!” Fu Ji’an nudged Mu Zhiming with his elbow and said: “Imperial Brother is not an arrogant person, why are you being so distant? The three of us grew up playing together!”

Although these words were serene, a sea of blood was spilled in Mu Zhiming’s previous life, leaving vicious and miserable wounds in his heart.
Like iron claws and silver hooks tearing into his flesh.
After straightening up, Mu Zhiming said with a gentle smile: “What the Seventh Prince said is correct.
I do miss that innocent and naive childhood friendship.
However, I’m not sure whether the Fifth Prince would remember.”

Fu Yi was calm, as he lightly smiled: “Of course I remember, how could I forget? The days I spent in the Fengyi Palace were the most carefree moments in my life.”

As Fu Yi bowed his head, he fell into a trance of memories.

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Concubine Wu, Fu Yi’s mother, was from a humble background.
Therefore, even though she gave birth to a Royal son, she could only obtain the title of Jieyu3.
Since the Emperor didn’t like her, he never saw her again after favoring her once.

For as long as Fu Yi could remember, except for the festivities and reunion days, he never saw his Imperial Father.
It was because of this, that the mother and son never had a peaceful day in the Palace.

The other concubines, who couldn’t give birth to a Prince, despised Concubine Wu Jieyu to death, making things difficult for her.
When the servants, who once sought out Consort Wu Jieyu’s support, saw that she wasn’t favored by the Emperor, they treated her coldly.

Later on, Noble Consort Niangniang entered the Palace.
Since she knew Concubine Wu from a young age, she angrily denounced the wicked people who dared to persecute Concubine Wu Jieyu and her son.
For this very reason, not only did Noble Consort Niangniang protect Concubine Wu Jieyu in every way she could, but she also took Concubine Wu Jieyu and her son, Fu Yi, to live in the Fengyi Palace with her.

Although this Palace was full of scheming people with sinister hearts, fortunately, the Noble Consort Niangniang was deeply favored by the Emperor.
Since the Noble Consort was energetic, sophisticated, and wise, even after experiencing great upheavals over the years4, she still remained safe and sound.

Due to this, Fu Yi, Fu Ji’an, and Mu Zhiming got to know each other from childhood, which was why they were closer to each other than other people.

“What is Imperial Brother talking about?!” Fu Ji’an’s clear voice pulled Fu Yi back from his thoughts: “You’re not that old! Why did you say that those were the most carefree moments in your life? The future is a long way away!”

Fu Yi smiled, but didn’t reply to that.
Instead, he said: “Go and memorize the books.
You have to keep in mind that Xiansheng will test you.”

“Hey! Why is Imperial Brother treating me like Mu-gege? Always urging me to study! When you two were young, you used to be more playful than I am!” Fu Ji’an complained, but in the end, he obediently sat down at his own desk, picked up a book, and began to memorize.

Mu Zhiming saluted and bowed down again.
Then, he turned back and walked to the back of the Academy, where the accompanying students sat.
Fu Yi, on the other hand, openly looked at Mu Zhiming as he walked away, smiling with his thoughts hidden.

Not long after, the Princes arrived, one after the other.
As the morning bells and evening drums5 resounded in the distance, Mu Boren taught diligently.

It was already the 7th Lunar Month6, where the cicadas chirped noisily and the summer heat was sultry.
The Princes, who were supposed to be studying, were propping their heads on their hands, feeling drowsy.
Near noon, Mu Boren suddenly shouted.
His voice was as loud as a torrent of bells as he said, ‘learning without reasoning leads to confusion7’, to awaken everyone from their slumber.

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At that moment, the Emperor walked slowly into the Academy with a smile on his face.
At that instant, everyone broke into a cold sweat and stood up, only to bow in greeting right after.

“Everyone sit down.
I only came to take a look.” The Emperor put his hands behind his back, smiling happily: “The Duke of Yan has worked hard.”

Mu Boren bowed, and without rising, he said: “In one’s position, one should do one’s duties8.
What hard work is there to be done? I thank His Majesty for his consideration.”

“Stop, you may rise.” The Emperor looked around the Academy, until his gaze stopped for a moment on Fu Ji’an and Mu Zhiming, who sat at the corner in the back.
Suddenly, the Emperor noticed something and asked with a frown: “Where is Qi’er?”

Mu Bored replied: “The Crown Prince has been feeling unwell recently, with a strong headache and a high fever, so he hasn’t come to the Academy for three days.”

The Emperor sneered: “Is that so? If he’s ill, why wasn’t I informed? Alright, I’ll go see him at the Ciren Palace later.
Duke of Yan, what book have you been teaching these days? Have any of my rebellious children disobeyed you, as their Xiansheng?”

“Of course not.” Mu Boren waved his hand again and again.
Then, he told the Emperor all of the books the Princes had read recently.

The Emperor nodded repeatedly, with a kind and amiable smile.
At that moment, everyone could already guess what the Emperor was about to say….

The Emperor: “I’ll test them!”

Mu Zhiming could almost hear the wailing and miserable howls surging deep inside each Prince….

The Emperor pondered for a moment and then said: “Write out the ‘Do Politics9’ from memory.
After you finish, you shall give it to me and leave for lunch.
The accompanying students will also have to write it down.
Once you finish, you shall give it to your Xiansheng.”

Everyone felt miserable and depressed.
As they took out their brush, ink, paper, and inkstone, one after the other, the Academy fell completely silent for a moment.

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Mu Zhiming had memorized the Four Books since he was a child, so it was easy for him to write it down in silence.
Mu Zhiming was the first to finish writing, but because he didn’t want to steal the limelight from the Princes, he didn’t rush to hand it over and pretended he was still writing.

At the same time, Fu Yi stood up with the rice paper in hand, attracting a lot of admiration from the crowd.

Fu Yi presented the essay to the Emperor with both hands.
After a casual glance, the Emperor took it and put it away, only to say with indifference: “Hmm, go ahead.”

Fu Yi saluted and left the Academy.

After a while, Fu Ji’an also stood up.
When the Emperor saw that Fu Ji’an had finished writing from memory, his face showed a pleased smile: “Has Ji’an finished writing?”

“Imperial Father, please read it.” Fu Ji’an handed over the essay he had written in silence.

“Good, very good.” The Emperor took the essay, read it carefully, and smiled.
“Not bad, not bad….Hm? One word was written wrong here.”

“Ah?!” Fu Ji’an was ashamed.

The Emperor simply kindly smiled, as he pointed out the wrong word to Fu Ji’an.
Then, he affectionately stroked Fu Ji’an’s head: “You’re still young and you wrote too fast.
You’re already such an outstanding student.
Is there a reward you want?”

“Er’Chen10 is already grateful for Imperial Father’s affection.
Er’Chen doesn’t need anything else.” Fu Ji’an said.

“You’re not moved by flattery or disgrace, just like your Consort Mother.
Good boy.” The Emperor smiled and said: “Alright, go back and rest.”

“Er’Chen thanks Imperial Father!” Fu Ji’an bowed, turned his head towards Mu Zhiming, and gave him a meaningful look, as if telling Mu Zhiming to hurry up with the essay.
Then, Fu Ji’an walked out of the Academy.

Mu Zhiming looked around and saw that the other Princes looked quite anxious.
Given that the Princes wouldn’t finish the essay so soon, Mu Zhiming decided that he couldn’t wait any longer, so he simply got up and handed over the essay to Mu Boren.

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Unexpectedly, the Emperor said: “Show it to me.”

Mu Zhiming was slightly stunned, but then he hurried to bow and hand over the rice paper in his hand to the Emperor.

The Emperor took a look at it and smiled: “Your appearance is already similar to the Noble Consort, but I didn’t expect that your handwriting would look exactly the same as the Noble Consort’s.
Alright, you can go now.”

Mu Zhiming bowed and bade his farewell.
After walking out of the Academy, Mu Zhiming arrived at a corridor.
There, he was slightly surprised to see Fu Yi and Fu Ji’an talking.

“Mu-gege!” When Fu Ji’an saw Mu Zhiming walking over, he waved at him.
“Come here! Imperial Brother said that he wanted to talk with you!”

Mu Zhiming: “….”




先生 xiān sheng; The term “Xiansheng” has been around for a long time.
However, in various periods in history, the term “Xiansheng” was addressed to different targets.
For example: For teachers, as an honorific for intellectuals and adults of certain status; to call someone else’s husband or to call one’s own husband; another name used to refer to Doctors. 狼心狗肺 láng xīn gǒu fèi; Chinese idiom.
‘Heart of a wolf and lungs of a dog’, means to describe someone who’s as cruel as a wolf/brutal and cold-blooded.
From《醒世恒言》by (冯梦龙 féng mèng lóng) Feng Menglong [1574-1646] from the late Ming Dynasty [1368-1644]. 婕妤 jié yú; Jieyu is a ranking title for the concubines in the Imperial Palace, established by Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty.
Initially, it was the highest rank below the Empress, but Emperor Yuan of the Han Dynasty then established the title of Zhaoyi above Jieyu.
Thus, Jieyu became a second rank title from then on. 大风大浪 dà fēng dà làng; Chinese idiom.
Used as a metaphor for a complex and intense struggle and turmoil in society.
From《母子君臣》by (高阳 gāo yáng) Gao Yang [1926-1992]. 晨钟暮鼓 chén zhōng mù gǔ; Chinese idiom.
In Buddhist temples, a bell was rung in the morning, while a drum was beaten in the evening to announce the passage of time.
However, this idiom is also used as a metaphor for encouragement to study or progress.
From《山中》by (李咸用 lǐ xián yòng) Li Xianyong from the Tang Dynasty [618-907]. Around August in the Gregorian Calendar. 学而不思则罔 xué ér bù sī zé wǎng; From《论语》“The Analects of Confucius”.
This phrase is a method advocated by Confucius concerning reading and learning.
It refers to the fact that if one reads books without reflecting on them, one will not understand the meaning of the books and will not be able to use the knowledge of the books reasonably and effectively, even falling into confusion. 在其位尽其责 zài qí wèi jìn qí zé; It basically means that when you are in a certain position, you must do what you are supposed to do in that position, fulfilling the responsibilities of that position. From《论语·为政》the Analects of Confucius: Do Politics.
The main content of this section touches on Confucius’ belief that “politics is based on virtue”, explaining the basic principles of how to seek official positions and how to work in politics, etc. 儿臣 ér chén; A first-person pronoun used by Princes when speaking with their Emperor Father and/or Empress Mother.

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