The Grand Emperor was about to pass on. All the royal family members gathered by his bed to listen to his last words.
“Li Shimin.” The Grand Emperor called out his son’s full name. “I have been wondering whether karma really exists? If it does, I pray that it does not happen to your descendants.”
“Grand Emperor!” The Emperor also held a deep knot in his heart.
“Shut up! For many years, you have suppressed what I wanted to say. Now that I am about to die, you should at least let me finish what I want to say.” The Grand Emperor closed his eyes and he spat coldly. “You killed your brother, Crown Prince Li Jiancheng, at Xuanwu Gate and became the Emperor. This set the precedent of fratricide within the Li family. I will never forgive you for what you did and I am also afraid that this sad story will happen once again in our family.”
The Grand Emperor changed his tone and asked, “I conferred the title of Crown Prince to Jiancheng in the past but could not protect him. Let me ask you, you made Chengqian the Crown Prince, but can you protect him?”
The Emperor sighed, “Chengqian was bright and filial when he was young. But recently, he has disappointed me by what he has been doing.”
A flicker of light passed through the Grand Emperor’s eyes and he questioned, “Is that his fault? Or is someone trying to harm him? How many Crown Princes in history were killed because of some malicious scheme? Back when you coveted the Crown Prince position and plotted against the Crown Prince, how many times were you able to escape uncaught?”
Upset, the Emperor said, “Imperial Father, I had no choice....” If his brother did not want to kill him…
“Enough. At this point, you don’t have to defend yourself for your actions in the past. I just want you to ask yourself, how far were you willing to go for the position of the Emperor? How many evil things did you do to your siblings? Chengqian’s enemies are the vicious traps set up for him. For the throne, people will go to extreme measures. If you do not protect Chengqian, he will become another Li Jiancheng.”
The Emperor hesitated and muttered, “We are not sure how Hong Yide died and it involves Lu Yunji. If Chengqian…”
Grand Emperor snapped, “Hong Yide is a traitor, what worth is he? Lu Yunji is also a mere Duke, the Crown Prince is the root of the country!” He suddenly used the last of his strength to push himself up and grab his son’s hand. With a stern face and cold eyes, he warned, “Remember! You must believe him and protect him for him to live. Once you suspect him, the people who want to take the throne from him will win and he will die! If I had been more firm, I would have used tougher measures to crack down on the enemies of the Crown Prince. Would he have died then? Would the Xuanwu Gate incident have happened?”
Growing weak, the Grand Emperor fell back down on his bed. He sighed, “Li Shimin, I will not forgive you. But since I am your father, I am not willing to see my descendants fight amongst themselves again. I do not want another Xuanwu Gate incident and another bloodbath amongst my kin. Do you understand?”
The Emperor nodded. “I understand. Chengqian is my Crown Prince, I will trust, protect him and ensure that his position will not waver.”
The Crown Prince was safe! Empress Zhangsun heaved a soft sigh of relief. Fu Rou was right. Despite how much hatred the Grand Emperor had towards the Emperor and her, he would protect the Crown Prince.
Wearing a distraught expression, Grand Prince Liang rushed to the side of the bed and cried. “Imperial Father! Imperial Father! I have the pill that Fu Siyan got from Priest Sun. Everyone claims that he is the Pill God and his pills can treat any illness.” The pill rolled out of the bottle. “Imperial Father, I will feed you the pill.”
Grand Emperor shook his head and rejected him. “Foolish child. I am like an empty oil lamp and my time is approaching. No matter how good the pill is, it is useless.”
“Imperial Father, please eat it. You will get better!” Grand Prince Liang forced a smile out through his tears. “Imperial Father, didn’t you say that you want me to settle down? I am attracted to a lady who is from a prestigious background. She is very pretty and can also dance. I want to marry her.”
Grand Emperor relaxed and smiled, “Good… good, then go for her and don’t let this chance pass.”
“Yes yes! I will do my best. If Imperial Father likes her, she can be my concubine. If Imperial Father wants to have a grandchild, I will quickly…”
Grand Emperor interrupted, “Empress, Grand Prince Liang has been spoiled by me. Can I trouble you to help him in the future?”
Empress Zhangsun respectfully agreed, “I will listen to Imperial Father’s instructions.”
The Grand Emperor sighed, “It has been so many years and I finally heard you call me Imperial Father. ‘Grand Emperor’ is such a loathsome title…” His hand dropped by his side lifelessly and his breathing stopped.
The Crown Prince rushed into Da An Palace with his grieving clothes. He stared blankly at the Grand Emperor’s bed.
“Crown Prince, come and kneel beside me.” The Emperor suddenly instructed. The Crown Prince recovered from his shock and kneeled down.
“Your Imperial Grandfather has left us.” The Emperor sounded choked. Looking at the Crown Prince’s sad expression, the Emperor said, “Before he left, I made a promise to him that I will trust and protect you. I will never let anyone harm you.”
The Crown Prince was shocked and he turned towards the Grand Emperor and bowed profusely. He had thought that the Grand Emperor harbored hatred towards him and never thought that the Grand Emperor would help him.
“Fang Xuanling, the culprit, Hong Yide, has committed suicide by poison. The Cangshan Mountain case is closed and no one else is allowed to speak of it again.” The Emperor gave his order.
Fang Xuanling asked, “Your Majesty, then what about Lu Yunji…”
“Hong Yide is vicious and he wanted to harm the Crown Prince. We cannot trust a single word of his. Since he wanted to harm the Crown Prince, he naturally wanted to take down Lu Yunji as well. Lu Yunji and his son are not guilty and can be freed.” He was not going to pursue the matter. He could not afford to pursue it.
“Instead, punish Yan Zifang by halving his salary for a year. Send someone from the Justice Office over and tell him to watch his words in the future. He needs to think before he speaks, how dare he talk nonsense in front of me?” If someone was innocent, someone else had to be guilty.
Fang Xuanling hesitated to speak. “Your Majesty, at Lizheng Palace, you ordered Yan Zifang to relay the words of Hong Yide. Yan Zifang had informed you that Hong Yide’s intentions could not be predicted and he could be instigating discord. You then ordered him to speak up without being afraid of being blamed.”
“What you said makes sense. Relay my orders, punish Yan Zifang by halving his salary for a year. Send someone from the Justice Office over to inform him.” The Emperor did not alter the punishment but changed the crime. “He was rude to me and did not have respect when speaking at Lizheng Palace.”
The Emperor directed all his anger towards Yan Zifang.
The Lu family was having a feast to celebrate Lu Yunji and Lu Qi’s release.
Lu Yunji could finally laugh. “I never imagined that I could leave prison twice unharmed. Hong Yide, you have finally died. A well-deserved death! A well-deserved death!”
“This time we really have to be thankful for the Crown Prince. The Emperor let the Crown Prince off and we were naturally freed too.” Lu Qi also sighed out in relief.
“No. We have to thank the Grand Emperor. His final words changed the Emperor’s mind and the both of us were freed. Because the country is mourning, we cannot hold a banquet, hold performances or drink celebratory wine. We will drink tea instead to express our gratitude to the Grand Emperor.” Lu Yunji raised his cup.
Everyone raised their cups and drank. When Lu Qi placed his cup down, he turned to look at Fu Yin. Holding her hand, he asked, “Yin’er, why are you so pale? Are you not feeling well? I told you already that I am fine, what are you worried about?”
Fu Yin’s expression turned red and she said, “I am fine. We are in front of Old Master and Young Lady.”
Fu Yin felt that she was going mad. Because she had burned the letter, Lu Qi had not been prepared, so the father and son pair were imprisoned. However, when Lu Qi was in prison, she did not sleep well as she was constantly worried about him. Now, he was safe and fine, she felt guilty as she thought about her mother. Her heart was hot and cold and she could not feel at ease.
Lu Qi laughed and released her hand.
Lu Yingying’s cold glare swept past Fu Yin. She smiled towards her father and brother and said, “I knew that Father and Brother could escape unharmed this time.”
“You are incredible.” Lu Qi turned into a good elder brother once again. He joked, “Are you Master Yuan? You can predict the future?”
“Yes I can predict the future.” Lu Yingying’s heart clenched with pain but she maintained her smile and added, “I also know that our family will have double the happiness soon.”
Lu Yunji was curious and he asked, “Oh? One of the happiness is our peaceful return home. What is the other one?”
Lu Yingying smiled meekly as she replied, “I am about to be married.”
Fu Yin was stunned and she suddenly recalled Lu Yingying going out often in the past few days. She had been trying to help her brother and father.
“Yingying…” Lu Qi knew that something was not right.
Lu Yingying cut him off and announced, “I have made a promise to Grand Prince Liang to marry him.”
Shocked, Lu Qi yelled, “What?”
Lu Yunji stared at his daughter for a second before he came to a realisation. “No wonder Grand Prince Liang had visited us in prison and even brought us things to eat.”
Lu Yingying shook her head and denied, “Father, you are mistaken…”
Lu Qi was blinded with anger as he raged, “What misunderstanding? It is clear what it is! I do not agree to this! Father, I will definitely not agree to Yingying marrying Grand Prince Liang! How is this a marriage? It is clearing a sacrifice!”
Lu Yingying remained calm. She knew clearly that everything had been settled. At least, she was guilt free and she did not have any selfish thoughts of harming others.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Aaiii. Yan Zifang couldn't get his revenge after all. Poor Yingying is sacrificing herself. What do you think is going to happen now?