His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the Great Song Dynasty, Son of Heaven, Lord of Ten Thousand Years, Ruler of the Central Kingdom, sits upon the Dragon Throne, ruling a land of ten thousand li in every direction, bearing the Mandate of Heaven and supported in his absolute and total rule by able and capable servants. Everything in harmony. Unlike the shirt of the under-minister for internal affairs, which had clearly not been adequately steamed, and did not quite match the flowers that had been selected for the month. It was going to be one of those days. He has not been on the throne very long, only a handful of years, and yet the acclimation to his subjects flying around on swords is something he is certain will never cease to unsettle him. As a child surviving in the harem, he had known the ultimate reward, that he would rule the court that all in ten thousand li owed obedience to. But the clans and sects of the cultivators seemed to treat that obedience as less of a divine mandate and more of a polite fiction. Thankfully they at least did not visit him at court. But the under-minister was approaching, so His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the Great Song Dynasty, Son of Heaven, Lord of Ten Thousand Years, Ruler of the Central Kingdom reflexively corrects his posture and beckons him closer.
Wei Wuxian's fidgeting is politely ignored. "The humblest sincere gift from a loyal citizen is treasured more than a solid gold elephant from a foreign prince." Sincere being the operative word. Of course, the emperor may be trapped into a gift exchange depending on how it is handled, but this is one of the benefits of sending one's courtiers out of the room first.
"This humble servant is grateful for Your Imperial Majesty's patience with the gifts of... merchants."
Not laughing not laughing not laughing.
So Lan Wangji has spies at Court, or at least close enough to it, and is letting the emperor know. And is, perhaps, feeling a touch confrontational: despite the flat delivery, the words were clearly chosen. "Patience is one of the virtues that all men must cultivate, particularly those who aspire to lead. We believe that this is wisely reflected in the rules of your clan, is it not?"
"Indeed, Your Imperial Majesty."
Now Wei Wuxian gets to show off his cool shit which ALMOST makes up for not being allowed to talk.
He reaches into the bag and takes out three books and a little bell.
has anyone considered that they are TALKING to the EMPEROR wen ning thinks they have not considered fully how terrifying that fact is
The emperor trusts that an explanation will come in time.
"Your Imperial Majesty, we humbly present to You the first three books from our new press and a talisman of Wei Wuxian's invention, based on the bells of the Jiang sect, which detects spiritual energy used by the wearer."
Not talking is HARD.
"We are thankful for your gifts. What is contained in these books?"
He has done all the not talking he can be reasonably expected to do.
"Your Imperial Majesty, this is an introductory cultivation textbook. Cultivators don't have any inherent abilities other people don't have. The reason that cultivation is kept within the clans is that we're the only ones who can teach our children young enough that they form a golden core. So! My book! I've had my demonic cultivators test it with their children and it took a couple tries but I can assure you, Your Imperial Majesty, that with the help of my book any non-cultivator with time and discipline can have their child form a golden core."
An entire country of cultivators. Turn any child into a cultivator. The dangers are immense. But the possibilities, if this is spread throughout the empire, are larger still. There will be no foreign threats before long, for what could stand against an army of cultivators? He has been assured that the differences are cultural, not spiritual, and so such an army should be controllable as normal.
"Wei Wuxian, you have truly exceeded yourself." That Wei Wuxian will almost certainly fail to catch the double meaning only makes it better. "This is a tremendous gift. To offer the power of cultivation to everyone in the empire presents a tremendous opportunity. We would like to see this distributed to everyone in the empire, if possible." It will cause some disruption for some well-established clans, most likely, but that is not a problem for the Empire: this offers the chance to truly shake things up and oust the fat and corrupt in a way not seen in his or his father's rule. "Is there any gift that could aid you in this endeavor?"
"Oh, Your Imperial Majesty, you don't even know the best part yet! So the other book is a medical textbook-- Wen Ning helped a lot with that one-- so people can treat their own diseases. And then I said to myself, 'well, all of these books are only useful if you can read,' so I wrote another book that's supposed to help kids learn to read and write and figure. Can't figure out how to get it so it teaches the kid without an adult-- I thought of papermen but then Lan Zhan said that that wouldn't help because you need a cultivator to make papermen and no way am I going to get everyone to make the same paperman for ten hours a day even if Lan Zhan does it first to show them that it's honorable-- but it says the words that the adult should say and when to move on to the next lesson so all you have to do is know how to read to use it. Oh! And the bell. I forgot about the bell. So the real problem with non-cultivators teaching cultivation, Your Imperial Majesty, is that they can't sense spiritual energy so they don't know whether the golden core is developing properly. But the Jiang sect has this traditional bell that rings the first time you use spiritual energy. And I thought 'wow, that sounds useful for something other than symbolism' so I got to work and now it makes different sounds corresponding to different stages of golden core development and spiritual energy use. Unfortunately, the bells definitely have to be made by a cultivator, they're a talisman, but people can share so it's more efficient than the papermen. Your Imperial Majesty."
He is SO EXCITED. By the end of the explanation he is BOUNCING.
With any luck the Emperor is more indulgent of such things than Lan Qiren.
"You have one book that you plan to use to turn ordinary elites into teachers of reading and writing?" Polite skepticism seems appropriate. As does one question at a time. Any more and Wei Wuxian would likely interrupt him, which the emperor does not see any need to have happen. Besides, he does not need to test Wei Wuxian's ability to hold multiple parts of a conversation in his head at once.
"Well, yeah. You just write down what teachers are supposed to do. It's not that hard. It's probably not as good as a good teacher, but it's a lot better than a terrible teacher, and-- oh! I should tell you the other thing."
The emperor makes a show of listening attentively.
"So, we've making a lot of money with the factories and the trade, Your Imperial Majesty, and there's really not a lot to spend money on, I've discovered. I have bought a lot of Emperor's Smile but even I can only drink so much Emperor's Smile, it turns out, I thought this would be impossible but in fact I can only get so drunk before it's not fun and also it turns out sometimes I don't want to be drunk. This is why the Jin put all that stupid gold on everything. They are trying to spend their unreasonable amount of money. Anyway. Where was I? Spending money. So I was like 'Wen Ning, what are we going to do with this enormous amount of money we have with literally nothing to spend it on?'--"
Why is he involved in the story. The Emperor should not notice he exists.
"--And Wen Ning, who is incredibly smart, was like 'weren't you just complaining that you can't teach kids whose parents can't read to cultivate?' So we could hire teachers and send them out to teach the peasants! And then they can learn how to read so they can read my very helpful books and do math so people don't cheat them and meditate a little so they're more durable and don't die every time smallpox comes around. And then I would have things to spend money on other than my Emperor's Smile collection."
"Your Imperial Majesty's Smile," Wei Wuxian corrected himself.