Chapter 17 Book 1: 16: Reward or Punish?
Book 1: Chapter 16: Reward or Punish?
The Gu Song Silversmith collapsed.
A string of miserable cries came from the rubble. Outside the Gu Song Silversmith, many people who managed to snatch away some gold or silver fled in fear.
At the restaurant across the street:
Gu Han looked at this scene in horror.
“Adoptive Father, why did the Gu Song Silversmith collapse?” Gu Han asked in surprise.
Gu Hai smiled coldly as he pointed out, “The Gu Song Silversmith does not have just gold and silver. Its various furnishings are all of the highest quality; even the pillars and roof beams are made of Golden Thread Cedar.”
“Ah? They even took the roof beams and pillars?” Gu Han felt utterly shocked by the mob snatching things from the Gu Song Silversmith.
“Who would not want something free?” Gu Hao said with a cold smile.
A large number of city guards immediately rushed over from a distance.
The people still rummaging around the rubble quickly scattered. Everyone disappeared in the blink of an eye.
“The city guards are here. It looks like the trouble in Song City is about to start. Go to the crown prince’s residence and help push things along. Tomorrow’s royal assembly will be crucial!” Gu Hai instructed seriously.
“Yes. Adoptive Father, rest assured. This child has spent a lot over the past few years to raise the crown prince to his current position. Although I cannot completely influence the crown prince’s thoughts, he does listen to my advice. This is not difficult!” Gu Han smiled confidently.
Word of the citizens robbing the Gu Song Silversmith spread instantly throughout Song City.
That was Song City’s largest silversmith, containing boundless wealth. The countless citizens that had rushed in got rich in the blink of an eye.
The people who failed to participate in time felt regretful and envious. At the same time, they waited for information from the officials.
Simultaneously, the people who participated hid their loot, waiting for information from the officials as well.
Song City soon calmed down, becoming even calmer than before. Everyone patiently waited and monitored the situation.
As a result, the citizens robbed only the Gu Song Silversmith, leaving the Gu Residence’s other businesses alone. Everyone waited for information, for what the royal assembly would say about this matter the next day.
When the news reached the various officials, countless officials had complicated feelings over it. They did not know what stance to take during the next day’s royal assembly.
Many officials sought out other officials to discuss what to do during the next day’s royal assembly.
Simultaneously, the news also reached the palace.
Many of the people in the palace felt happy over this.
“Good. Good snatching. Old Demon Gu’s things should be snatched away.”
“If it were me, I would snatch his items too. I have been to that Gu Song Silversmith before. That place is even more extravagant than the palace.”
“This is good. Now that the citizens robbed Gu Hai’s shop, the emperor will be happy. The popular sentiment can be used.”
Many people cheered. However, when the emperor carefully read the report in his study, he frowned heavily as he analyzed the matter.
“Call Imperial Tutor Pang and Prime Minister Liu here to discuss this!” the aged emperor instructed.
At the crown prince’s residence:
Crown Prince Song listened to his subordinates report about the Gu Song Silversmith.
“Good! Hahaha! Gu Hai’s shop got robbed! Haha! Truly delightful!” Crown Prince Song laughed.
The death of Crown Prince Song’s son, Song Zhengxi, had pushed his hatred for Gu Hai to the peak long ago. Any bad news for Gu Hai delighted him, helping him vent his anger.
“Your Highness, this is not the time to be happy!” one of the crown prince’s advisers said with a bitter smile.
“Huh?” Crown Prince Song frowned as he looked at the few advisers before him.
“Your Highness, Gu Hai’s shop being robbed and collapsing is a delightful thing. However, there is a conflicting problem hidden behind this,” another of the advisers said.
“What problem?” Crown Prince Song asked.
“How should we deal with this matter? The Gu Song Silversmith does indeed belong to Gu Hai. However, what do we do with the citizens who robbed it? Should we punish them or reward them? Were the citizens right or wrong? We can say that the citizens are wrong, but they were just being loyal to the nation. At the very least, they ostensibly hold the moral high ground. They performed a service to the nation; there’s nothing wrong with that, no matter what means they use. However, if we say they are right, they have actually committed crimes. My Song Nation strictly upholds the law. This falls under robbery. No matter who the other party is, they should not have robbed him. Robbery itself is an offense. It means that they have no regard for my Song Nation’s laws. The law is an important tool of the nation; it cannot be taken lightly. The law is the foundation for controlling the citizens. Violating the law equals defying imperial authority,” one of the advisors pointed out.
“Indeed. Your Highness, if we say the citizens were wrong, they were just performing a service to the nation. If we say the citizens were right, they violated the law, disregarding it. Are the citizens right or wrong? Should we punish them or reward them? I think the many officials have a headache over this now. As for the citizens of Song City, they are waiting for tomorrow’s royal assembly to know the results,” another advisor said with a bitter smile.
Crown Prince Song gaped in shock. Were the citizens right or wrong? The officials needed to determine this. However, how?
The room immediately fell silent. This was an extremely tricky problem.
“If only it were my Song Nation’s officials confiscating the Gu Song Silversmith. There would not be such a huge problem then!” Crown Prince Song smiled bitterly.
“No. Your Highness, when two nations are at war, they do not execute the messengers and envoys. So far, there is insufficient evidence that Gu Hai’s shops are harming our Song Nation, so we cannot confiscate them. Otherwise, it would result in a chain reaction. Merchants would not dare to do business in multiple countries or even travel abroad for trade. Furthermore, Gu Hai has too many shops. If we confiscate them all, we might throw the Song Nation’s commerce into disorder. There would suddenly be shortages for many things, which would affect the citizens. Furthermore, we are spreading the word of Gu Hai’s deeds only to prevent Gu Hai’s schemes from working. The citizens will only hate Gu Hai but not fear him. If we confiscate all his businesses, it will give the impression that the nation is in danger, inducing worry and panic in the citizenry.”
A trace of incomprehension appeared on Crown Prince Song’s face.
“Perhaps the emperor has thought of confiscating the Gu Song Silversmith as well. He might have already prepared to do this to avoid any hidden danger. After all, while there may be losses, it would be within control. However, we were one step too late. The citizens snatched the items first. This complicated the situation even more. How are we to judge the citizens who robbed the Gu Song Silversmith? Should we reward them or punish them?” An advisor smiled bitterly.
Crown Prince Song: “…!”
The room turned silent again. This was originally a happy thing. How did it turn so strange?
“Your Highness the Crown Prince!”
A servant entered from outside.
“What’s wrong?” Crown Prince Song asked.
“Mister Tian seeks an audience!” that servant said respectfully.
“Mister Tian? Tian Han? That merchant?”
“This Tian Han is quite smart. Unfortunately, he chose to focus on money. Although he uses his wealth to support the crown prince, he does not interfere with the crown prince’s matters.”
“It’s good that he does not interfere. How can a merchant casually interfere with the crown prince’s business?”
The group of advisors discussed in whispers. Crown Prince Song already ordered someone to bring Gu Han in.
Soon, Gu Han arrived in the room.
“This lowly citizen greets Your Highness the Crown Prince. Greetings, Lords!” Gu Han said with a smile.
“Mister Tian, there’s no need to stand on ceremony!” the crown prince said with a smile.
The group of advisors also smiled. After all, Gu Han never interfered with the crown prince’s matters and did not have any conflict of interest with anyone.
“Mister Tian, why are you here?” Crown Prince Song asked out of curiosity.
Gu Han smiled bitterly and said, “I believe Your Highness already knows about the Gu Song Silversmith’s matter, right?”
“Oh?” Everyone’s expression changed.
“Mister is here for this matter?” Crown Prince Song said with a frown.
“This Tian does not dare to jump to an unfounded conclusion on this matter. This Tian is talentless and is only a merchant, unable to share Your Highness’s burden. I came here this time just to share what this Tian saw. Perhaps the angle that I, an ordinary citizen, can see might differ from the various lords. Thus, I came so that everyone can take reference from it,” Gu Han said politely.
“Oh?” Everyone looked at Gu Han with curiosity.
The next day, during the royal assembly in Song City:
The Song Emperor sat on his throne, looking down on all his officials. The officials seemed to have just been through an intense argument. Many of them were still flushed. Now, everyone looked at Crown Prince Song, who was in the center.
“Imperial Father, fellow officials, we have already discussed whether this is right or wrong for a long time. The citizens robbing the Gu Song Silversmith broke the law. However, they robbed Gu Hai’s shop. Gu Hai has already been declared a demon long ago. They were clipping his demonic wings, considered to be upholding righteousness. There are merits to both sides. This official is untalented, but I have an opinion!” Crown Prince Song said gravely.
“Your Highness, please speak,” Imperial Tutor Pang, who stood in the left row, urged.
The Song Emperor stared at Crown Prince Song.
Crown Prince Song nodded and said, “Imperial Father, fellow officials, let’s assume that the citizens are guilty of the crime of robbery. Prince Minister Liu, you argued the most intensely for this point of view. In that case, I’ll ask you some questions, and you answer them. If the citizens are guilty, as you said, how will you deal with them?”
An old official at the head of the right row of officials stepped forward.
“Return everything they snatched away and give them a small punishment as a deterrent against future occurrences!” Prime Minister Liu said gravely.
“Are the citizens willing to return the items? I think no one would be willing to do so. Furthermore, it is very challenging to investigate who snatched what. Are you going to search the entire city? Gu Hai destroyed my Song Nation’s eight-hundred-thousand-strong army. Will we now help Gu Hai recover his losses? What will the citizens think?”
“We can confiscate the items and not return them to Gu Hai!” Prime Minister Liu said with a frown.
“If we do not return the items to Gu Hai, they will go into my nation’s treasury. In that case, what are the eventual effects of that large-scale manhunt? To fight with the citizens over the loot? The nation against the citizens? Are you trying to isolate the Song Nation’s officials from the citizens? No, set them against each other?” Crown Prince Song demanded coldly.
“Ah? This old official absolutely does not have that intention!” Prime Minister Liu immediately shook his head.
“The citizens snatched Gu Hai’s things. If our officials decide to seize the items, we do not have a way to deal with the loot. We can’t hand them to Gu Hai or keep them for ourselves. No matter what we do, we will come off looking bad. My Song Nation has announced how evil Gu Hai is. This stance will never change. We absolutely will never stand on Gu Hai’s side to help him recoup his losses. All the more we cannot deal a blow to the citizens’ confidence in hating Gu Hai when their morale is high.
“The citizens did this because they hated Gu Hai. Of course, some people took advantage of the situation. However, they had this impulse only because they hated Gu Hai. The popular sentiment can be used. This proves that our earlier proclamation has taken effect. At the very least, Gu Hai’s strange schemes and plots cannot be carried out on the citizens. Everyone has their guard up against Gu Hai!” Crown Prince Song said.
“Is Your Highness saying that we cannot punish the citizens?” Prime Minister Liu said with a frown.
“That’s right. They robbed the Gu Song Silversmith to clip Gu Hai’s wings. Naturally, we cannot punish them for that!” Crown Prince Song replied gravely.
“We cannot punish them? However, they broke my Song Nation’s laws. Are you going to reward them instead? My Song Nation’s laws are sacred, not something to be broken. No one can break them. Otherwise, if the law crumbles, the citizens will turn lawless, and the Song Nation will be destroyed!” Prime Minister Liu said anxiously.
“Prime Minister Liu, you are overthinking. This is what I want to talk about. The law is dead, and people are alive. The circumstances are special, so we should deal with this by looking at it as stripping something away.” Crown Prince Song smiled.
“Oh? Stripping away something? How and what?” the Song Emperor asked, feeling confused.
“Imperial Father, this prince believes that the way we are trying to determine the nature of this matter is somewhat messy. The law conflicts with service to the nation because of the vermin that is Gu Hai. However, what if we strip Gu Hai of the protection of my Song Nation’s law?” Crown Prince Song suggested.
“Huh?” Everyone frowned as they looked at Crown Prince Song.
“We absolutely cannot tolerate those who harm my nation. Why should my Song Nation’s laws protect Gu Hai’s shops? This prince feels that the citizens have done well. While we debated about whether to confiscate Gu Hai’s shops, the citizens took action one step ahead of us out of love for the nation. This is because they firmly believe that everything of Gu Hai’s is harmful to my Song Nation. The citizens’ hearts are united with my Song Nation. Why should we hurt their confidence in us? We should support the citizens, support the popular sentiment. This is because when the citizens’ confidence in us is firm, the nation is firm. The citizens are looking to my Song Nation for directions. Are we going to make things difficult for them instead?” Crown Prince Song said.
“Huh?” The many officials frowned as they thought about this.
“We had made many proclamations previously, publicizing Gu Hai’s evils. Retaliation against Gu Hai happened only yesterday, and we are seeking to punish those who retaliate against Gu Hai today. In that case, what was the point of making all those proclamations? For a joke? For fun? To create a sensation? A nation cannot stand if no one believes in it. A sovereign’s words are not a joking matter. We cannot let our nation’s prestige be profaned!” Crown Prince Song shouted, giving off a powerful and resonant tone.
The Song Emperor on the throne narrowed his eyes slightly as he nodded.
“Your Highness, are you saying that not only should we not punish them, but we should even reward them? Reward them for robbery?” Prime Minister Liu asked with an unsightly expression.
“There’s no need to reward them. However, we should encourage them and pardon them of this crime,” Crown Prince Song replied seriously.
“However…however, does Your Highness know that countless citizens outside the royal court are waiting for a sign from us. Once we determine the direction, it will be difficult to change. You want to declare them innocent and even encourage them. After today, all of Gu Hai’s other shops will be robbed. Don’t you think so as well?” Prime Minister Liu said with a worried frown.
“Hah! Prime Minister Liu, why are you so concerned about Gu Hai’s business?” Crown Prince Song countered coldly.
“Concerned? What do I have to be concerned about? However, how many businesses does Gu Hai have? Do you know how much wealth that is? Why not let the officials confiscate them instead. By letting the citizens rob them…” Prime Minister Liu said anxiously.
Crown Prince Song smiled coldly and shook his head. “I know that there is plenty of wealth. Anyone would be envious. Even I would feel envious and would want to confiscate it for myself. However, Prime Minister Liu, don’t forget which is more important: the wealth or my Song Nation?”
“Oh?” Everyone in the hall immediately turned solemn.
“Imperial Father, Gu Hai has plenty of wealth; everyone wants a piece of it. However, it is nothing compared to my Song Nation’s empire. Since we have already determined the direction for the Gu Song Silversmith, then just let the citizens rob Gu Hai’s wealth. What if the officials confiscated them and the citizens also wanted to rob them, creating a conflict? Are we going to fight the ordinary citizens? What if Gu Hai takes advantage of that?” Crown Prince Song asked seriously.
“But…!” Prime Minister Liu said anxiously.
“Imperial Father, the citizens only robbed Gu Hai’s wealth because we publicized Gu Hai’s evil deeds. This is in line with my Song Nation’s will, so we should encourage it. By letting the citizens have Gu Hai’s wealth, the citizens will feel grateful and more willing to submit to us. That will make our proclamations more convincing. Although Gu Hai is wealthy, my Song Nation’s empire is more important. This prince feels that the retaliation against Gu Hai yesterday should be encouraged and not punished!” Crown Prince Song said gravely to the aged emperor.
The many officials whispered among themselves for a while.
“This old official supports what His Highness said. Although Gu Hai has plenty of wealth, giving that up is worth it to firm up the citizens’ confidence in us!” Imperial Tutor Pang said.
“This official agrees!”
“We officials agree!”
The entire royal assembly immediately sided with Crown Prince Song.
As the Song Emperor sat on the throne, he saw that the officials overwhelmingly supported the crown prince, so he eventually nodded.
Indeed, what was the point of confiscating so much wealth? If Gu Hai destroyed the Song Nation, they would not be able to use the money, no matter how much there was. As long as he had his empire, he still had everything.
“We permit the crown prince’s plan!” the Song Emperor said.
“Long live the emperor! May you live for ten thousand years!”
The results of the royal assembly immediately spread out.
Gu Hai and Gu Han had been paying attention to the royal assembly. The moment it was over, someone came to report the information.
“Adoptive Father, this is great. Crown Prince Song used my arguments and managed to make the royal assembly support rewarding the Song Nation citizens for retaliating against my Gu Clan. Now, they have officially pushed the Song Nation into a deep abyss!” Gu Han looked at Gu Hai excitedly.
Gu Hai picked up a teacup and took a sip. Then, he revealed a faint smile.
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