426 Writing History
Despite Yu Zhen's great suggestion about sealing the deal, there were more pressing issues at hand. Li Xueyue knew they were too indulgent. A small kiss would turn into a heated one. It would not take long for the things on his desk to be pushed aside, and lovemaking to follow right there and then.
"Back to Duke Han," she said, much to Yu Zhen's dismay. He grumbled under his breath.
Li Xueyue smiled at this. He was always so solemn in front of others, surely no one would believe there was actually this side to him.
"What about that senile man?" Yu Zhen grunted, irritated that she had rejected him so many times. What could possibly go wrong from having a bit of fun during serious talks?
Yu Zhen did not think his patience would be tested to such an extent. Li Xueyue was tempting, even when she argued against him. Somehow, it enticed him further…especially seeing her pursed lips and concentrated expression.
"For Duke Han, he will likely make the same argument that this would be a waste of resources and money," she said.
Yu Zhen nodded in response. This was the tricky part. Duke Han was old and conservative. He wasn't inclined to listen to the voices of youngsters, especially women.
"Yes, you mentioned building schools and increasing funding for the orphanages will better the lives of the commoners," he stated. "But how will it benefit us, aristocrats? For self-centered people like Duke Han, you must find a way to please his greedy needs."
Li Xueyue pressed her lips together. She had already made the argument that his servants would be more competent, but that did not entice him. Then, what would?
"Do we need everyone to agree with an idea for it to be passed?"
"In that case, it would be fine if it is only Duke Han who disagrees," Li Xueyue said.
Yu Zhen shook his head in disagreement. "He is an influential man whose opinion is often valued. The other people in the room might have the same thoughts as him. How will building schools for the commoners help them?"
Li Xueyue could not run away from this problem. It must be faced head-on. She couldn't just ignore Duke Han.
Suddenly, an idea came to mind. "Hanjian has always been progressive in terms of its treatment towards the commoners. To improve their lives, we went as far as lowering their taxes."
Yu Zhen slowly nodded. He was even more intrigued than before. "Go on."
"Why don't we set an example for our allies?" Li Xueyue suggested. "Hanjian could become history makers. We would be the first country to build schools for commoners, and if this brings us benefits in the form of more loyal subjects, then undoubtedly, other countries will follow suit."
Yu Zhen hummed. This was indeed a great idea, but he needed to continue playing devil's advocate , so that she would be more prepared.
"And what if it fails? Instead of writing history, we will be a laughing stock," he remarked in a disapproving voice. Even so, she did not falter.
"What could go wrong in providing education for commoners?" she demanded. "If they protest and revolt, then it means the Imperial Family havd failed to meet their needs. A country is nothing without its loyal subjects."
"The current method of instilling fear in your subjects has worked for decades.
"But too much fear will spark a desire for change. People will no longer want to be oppressed by an absolute power."
She was correct, of course.
"The oppressed can only take so much. Soon, they would harbor hatred from maltreatments, and many would rise against the Kingdom." Li Xueyue added on.
She gauged his reaction. He was deep in thought and so she continued.
"Of course, Hanjian could handle the protests, but what if the soldiers turn against us and defend their fellow countrymen? Soldiers are mostly commoners and the middle-class."
Yu Zhen hummed. "Go on."
"Thus, improving the living conditions of their families will create more loyalty in everyone."
"And the instructors?" he asked. "Who shall teach in the school?"
Li Xueyue touched her chin and thought deeply. "Great question," she slowly said to buy herself a few more seconds of thinking time. Just then, an idea popped into her mind.
"We will find outstanding students from the lower-class who have enrolled in the private schools attended mostly by the aristocrats. I think there are a few scholars in there who are intelligent, but come from a more humble background."
Yu Zhen lifted a brow.
"We will train them as instructors, and offer incentives. For example, with enough years in public service, they will receive a big promotion or something along those lines, until we have enough commoners who can teach their own."
Yu Zhen wondered if this was all planned out from the start. This time, Li Xueyue had an air-tight plan. "Did you come up with this new idea on the spot?"
Li Xueyue sheepishly smiled. "Perhaps."
Yu Zhen chuckled at her expression. "It doesn't seem like it at all."
Yu Zhen quietly nodded his head. He had thought in the mindset of Duke Han and other aristocrats. These would be the main points of their objection. And now that Li Xueyue had it all covered, her success would be guaranteed. Unless Li Xueyue suddenly loses her confidence, she would be fine.
"You've done an outstanding job," Yu Zhen finally said after a few seconds in contemplation. His heart swelled with pride. She had changed so much… It was difficult to believe this was the same girl from months ago.
Li Xueyue held her breath, awaiting for the final verdict.
"It seems you've won this argument, Crown Princess."
Li Xueyue perked up, a grin breaking out on her face. "So, when is the next Round Table Discussion?"
"Very soon, in less than two days' time."
Li Xueyue rapidly nodded her head, ready to get everything written down onto a piece of parchment, so that she would not forget this discussion.
"May I?" she asked, pointing to his brush and parchment.
"You didn't even have to ask."
Yu Zhen placed a blank parchment in front of her. Then, he presented her with a brush already dipped in ink. Though, the ink had dried up on the slab.
"Here, let me grind the ink," Li Xueyue said. She was feeling excited, fearing a detail might be left out if she took too long to get started.
"Focus on writing, Sunshine. I will do it for you."
Li Xueyue was too eager to get started to even realize the significance behind his words. She had forgotten that the task of grinding ink was never the husband's job, but a job for the dutiful wife, if she had time. But none of this mattered.
Yu Zhen was just happy to see her so happy. It filled him with even more joy knowing that she was flourishing so well. Despite the troubles she had experienced, Li Xueyue had triumphed over them all.
Yu Zhen watched her messily scribble her ideas down. He pulled back his sleeves, and ground the ink for her. She was so concentrated on the task, that her eyes never left the parchment.
Not even for a second.
"You will make a great Empress."