Chapter 45.2: Secret Tunnel

The light from the firestick was swallowed by the darkness. Amongst the cold and wet stone walls, the light barely illuminated the four figures. In order to lose their pursuers, they had abandoned their carriage and ran into the old forest. At the critical juncture, she found this cave and ran in without caring. Although they managed to lose their pursuers, they were currently lost in this deep cave with numerous forks. They could not find their way back.

The Grand Emperor believed that this was the Death Maze of the Cangshan Mountain. 

The Cangshan Mountain had many caves and they were all linked. The route was, however, complicated like a huge maze. During the Sui Dynasty, when the citizens were being extorted, many chose to escape into the caves in the Cangshan Mountain to hide. Unfortunately, they often got lost in the caves and were trapped, eventually perishing from starvation or dehydration. Hence, the name Death Maze was formed. 

Empress Zhangsun was very positive. At every fork, she used a copper coin to choose whether to head left or right and proceeded slowly.

However, after going through fork after fork, they reached a dead end and had to turn back to reselect. This journey was extremely tiring, especially for the Grand Emperor, who was much older, and Empress Zhangsun, who was still slightly sick.

Fu Rou was smart and made markings along the way they had gone. It was not futile. Moreover, she had arranged the bones of those that died in the maze out of kindness and accidentally found a mechanism to open a hidden door. 

Behind the hidden door, were two stone rooms. There was a simple stone bed, stone chair and some equipment. There were even some oil lamp flints. It was obvious that someone had lived here. Although this was not an exit, it allowed the four of them to have some rest. 

Fu Rou then thought that if someone could live here, it meant that they probably figured out how to get through the maze. They might have even left a map in the stone rooms. 

Empress Zhangsun and the Grand Emperor agreed with Fu Rou and started to search the entire place. 

The Grand Emperor saw that Grand Prince Liang was not moving. “Grand Prince Liang, don’t just stand there. Help us search.”

Grand Prince Liang suddenly fell to the ground and did not get up. Everyone was frightened as they lifted him onto the stone bed. Fu Rou realised that he had a wound on his back and the wound was turning black. 

Empress Zhangsun thought back. “He must have gotten hurt while fighting those evil men. I am afraid that their weapons may have been coated with poison…”

The Grand Emperor shook Grand Prince Liang. “Grand Prince Liang, wake up. You can’t abandon your father. Hurry and wake up!”

“Grand Emperor, do not be anxious. Grand Prince Liang is young and strong, he must have fainted temporarily. Let me see…” Empress Zhangsun reached out to touch Grand Prince Liang’s forehead. However, the Grand Emperor shoved her hand away.

“Get lost! You cannot touch him! You...you all are evil!” The Grand Emperor shouted.

Empress Zhangsun was stunned. “Grand Emperor…”

“Why can’t you just let us go? My Jiancheng and my Yuanji were all killed by you people. That Emperor of yours knew that the Sui Officials were catching people and escaped in the night by himself. He left my fourteen year old son, Zhiyun in Hedong, causing him to be beheaded by Yin Shishi. I am already old and only have Grand Prince Liang left. Why can’t you just let us go? You people have already gotten the throne and Great Tang. You have the whole world. Isn’t that enough? Must you push me to the edge before you all are satisfied!” The Grand Emperor was losing reason as his eyes tinged red.

“Grand Emperor, you are getting confused. The one who escaped by himself in the night, leaving Fifth Brother at the old house in Hedong was not His Majesty. It was the Crown Prince Yin, Li Jiancheng.” Empress Zhangsun did not want her husband to be misunderstood.

“Jiancheng?” The Grand Emperor’s gaze slackened. “Right, my Jiancheng is dead as well. Even his children, my obedient grandchildren, are all dead. Emperor Qin, Li Shimin. You are despicable! I am your father and they were your biological brothers. They were also your niece and nephews! Emperor Qin! Emperor Qin! Emperor of Great Tang. You have killed so many of my children and grandchildren. Are you still trying to take Grand Prince Liang away? Good, good! I cannot bear this any longer. If it is not you that will be dying today, it will be me! I am going all out!”

The Grand Emperor suddenly pounced onto Empress Zhangsun and strangled her. 

As Fu Rou saw this, she did not care anymore and picked up a pot and smashed it over the Grand Emperor’s head. The Grand Emperor immediately lost consciousness.

“Your Majesty, are you alright?” Fu Rou was shocked. She never thought that the Grand Emperor would bear so much resentment against the Emperor. They were father and son. 

“All these years, he had been burying the resentment in his heart. He hated the Emperor and he hated me. No matter how we tried to be filial towards him, we can never make up for the things that happened on the day of the Xuanwu Gate Coup.” Empress Zhangsun looked about to cry. “It is clearly someone’s else that poisoned Grand Prince Liang, yet he blames it on me and the Emperor. He actually really, really hates…”

“Your Majesty, you are sweating.” The Royal Palace killed people and destroyed family relationships. Fu Rou sighed as she took out a handkerchief to help Empress Zhangsun wipe away her sweat. She accidentally touched a bottle of medicine. “Your Majesty, I have two medicinal pills here. It was given to me by Priest Sun from Fengtian Monastery. He said that it is an antidote. Perhaps it would help Grand Prince Liang.”

Empress Zhangsun looked at the medicine bottle and muttered, “Priest Sun from Fengtian Monastery? The one that people claim is a Pill God, Sun Siyao?”

Fu Rou made the decision. “I am going to feed Grand Prince Liang a pill and see.” She took out one pill and walked towards the stone bed.

Zhangsun suddenly grabbed onto Fu Rou’s wrist as she stared at the unconscious Grand Emperor. “Wait! Let...let me think…”

“Think about what?” Fu Rou asked.

“The Grand Emperor holds a murderous grudge...against the Emperor and me. He will never forget it and always uses different reasons to make things difficult for the Emperor and me…” Empress Zhangsun struggled with herself. “This is the Death Maze, no one knows…”

Fu Rou cut her off, “Grand Emperor was confused. Your Majesty is also getting confused.”

Fu Rou gently but firmly took Empress Zhangsun’s hand off as she walked to Grand Prince Liang and fed him a pill. Empress Zhangsun wore a complicated expression but did not say anything.

After a while, Fu Rou noticed that Grand Prince Liang’s complexion was improving and breathed a sigh of relief. Although Grand Prince Liang was not very decent, she did not want him to lose his life. This concerned people’s lives, and she could not go against her will.

The Grand Emperor slowly regained consciousness. Fu Rou did not hit him hard and it was his anxiety that knocked him out. Empress Zhangsun hesitated before going to help him. However, he pushed her away once again.

Fu Rou saw this and said calmly, “Grand Emperor, Grand Prince Liang has already taken a pill and is improving. His life is not in danger.”

The Grand Emperor checked Grand Prince Han’s wound and realised that it was fresh blood that was flowing from it. He was delighted. “Thank the heavens, thank the heavens.”

Fu Rou continued, “It was thanks to Her Majesty’s reminder that I remembered the two pills that were given by Priest Sun Siyao.” 

When used well, lies could help people. 

The Grand Emperor froze as he turned to Empress Zhangsun angrily, “Just now, I…”

Zhangsun subconsciously touched her neck that still felt like it was being pressed on. “Just now, Grand Emperor was anxious about Grand Prince Liang’s injury and accidentally knocked onto my neck.”

The Grand Emperor reacted quickly. “Yes! I was...a little careless.”

Grand Prince Liang opened his eyes and called out, “Imperial Father.”

“Eh! I am here, I am here.” In times of danger, a father and son were linked in their hearts and mind. All statuses were disregarded.

Empress Zhangsun walked into the other stone room and Fu Rou followed her. The two of them searched the entire room but did not find anything. 

Empress Zhangsun suddenly said, “The four of us are trapped here. The Grand Emperor is old, Grand Prince Liang is injured and I am sickly. I need someone to support me just to walk. You are our only hope to get out of here.” She took out a pearl hairpin from her hair. “This is a night pearl given to me by His Majesty. Take it and find our way out.”

“I will heed your order.” Fu Rou knew that Empress Zhangsun was right. As she turned to leave, Zhangsun called for her.

“Fu Siyan.”

Fu Rou turned back, “Your Majesty, do you have any other instructions?”

“Did you know? Master Yuan said that you are someone that can help me.” Empress Zhangsun gazed at her. “I also believe that you can help me.”

Fu Rou nodded as she took the night pearl, a chunk of black ink slab and a piece of cloth that she tore from her clothes. She walked out of the stone room and into the never ending darkness.

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