On the day that Prince Han returned to Chang’an, tens of thousands of people filled the streets. The citizens were cheering and shouting “Long live Prince Han”. It made the Crown Prince unhappy. The Emperor was delighted and personally wrote the word “Virtuous” to give to Prince Han. The hundreds of officials praised him and the Crown Prince grew even more jealous.
As for Sheng Chumu, he was brilliant in using his army and obtained much military success. He even charged in and out three times to rescue Prince Han. When all these were reported to the Emperor, the Emperor forbade him from returning to the borders. Sheng Chumu was to remain in Chang’an. He was bestowed the new title of General Xuanwu and tasked to guard Xuanwu gate.
During that morning’s court, the Emperor generously gave out gifts and even praised the Crown Prince for recommending Prince Han.
The Crown Prince still felt down. Nothing that he had planned had been successful. Prince Han's reputation became more celebrated and they did not manage to find the letter that he wrote to Prince Zhao. He was afraid that it had landed in someone else’s hands. He had calculated and planned everything but was left with nothing in return.
Meanwhile, Prince Zhou had also been praised but on this rare occasion, he was feeling the same feelings as the Crown Prince. He was upset. He had recommended Sheng Chumu because he trusted Fu Rou and because he could not go by himself. However, he was slightly dissatisfied with Prince Han and Sheng Chumu. Prince Zhao, the person that had killed Qian Wenjing brutally, was still alive.
What made it harder for Prince Zhou to accept was that Prince Zhao had only been locked for two days. From what he heard from his mother, Prince Zhao had pleaded for mercy pitifully. Moreover, the Empress pleaded on his behalf and the Emperor had forgiven Prince Zhao. Prince Zhao was then stripped of his title and reduced to a commoner and the whole incident was dropped. He could not stand this. He made up his mind to fight against this decision and kneeled in the path that the Emperor had to take.
“In the path of learning, the most difficult thing is to respect the teacher. Upon receiving respect, teachers have to impart knowledge to students before students can be respected. Only when students receive knowledge can they then be respected by others. During ceremonies, even the teacher does not have an inferior position to the son of heaven!” He wrapped a white band around his head and had a sorrowful expression.
The Emperor sighed, “I understand that you cannot let go of Qian Wenjing’s death.”
“Prince Zhao killed Qian Wenjing so cruelly that even people criticised him. Imperial Father, you promised me that you would seek justice for Qian Wenjing. Have you forgotten your promise?”
“I did not forget.” However, Prince Zhao was his own flesh and blood. How could he kill his own son!
“Then I plead Imperial Father to act according to the nation’s law and console the spirit of a faithful official.” Prince Zhao could not be forgiven.
“You are my son. Can’t you understand my love for my children? Prince Zhao is your brother. Can’t you pity him in the slightest?”
“Rebels and traitors. What is there to forgive?” He had never interacted much with Prince Zhao, much less form any brotherly bond. “How many innocent people have died because of Prince Zhao’s rebellion? If Imperial Father sympathises with Prince Zhao and does not correct him, how can you face the numerous officials and soldiers that did their best for the country?”
The Emperor was unhappy. “That is enough!”
“Imperial Father, you cannot ignore the national laws just because of a woman from the harem!” It wasn’t enough!
The Emperor slapped Prince Zhou. “Impudent! Lige, I have been too lenient on you! If you dare to continue speaking, you will be severely punished!” He then swiped his sleeve and left.
Prince Zhou kneeled for a while before standing up. When he turned around, he saw Fu Rou in the distance. He did not know how much she had seen. He thought that she would turn and leave but instead, she walked towards him. He then recalled. She could cry for a palace maid that she did not know, of course she would pity him.
“I was wrong.” He gazed up at the blue sky, letting go of all the pent up frustrations in his heart. “I should not have brought you back from Guangzhou. The Royal Palace is not a place for good people to stay. In here, there is no use being upright or loyal. No matter how much one wants to be a good person, in the end, they have no choice but to become bad. To helplessly fall.” Why did he think that kneeling and begging would have worked?
“Your Highness, your thinking is too extreme. The Royal Palace is the backbone of Great Tang. Here, everything that happens will concern the entire country. If even upright and loyal people don’t have a place here, what is Great Tang left with?” She was unwilling to be so negative.
He laughed bitterly, “Alas, only the person I like persists on being herself and is not willing to be changed by the world.”
Unfortunately, he could not do it. His Imperial Father only knew how to say that he loved him but has never ever given him anything he wanted. Luckily, his mother would always be on his side and would try to be considerate of him. He would do anything to make Prince Zhao pay the price.
In prison, Prince Zhao was eating and drinking well. Empress Zhangsun had sent someone to inform him that the Emperor was intending to forgive him. After hearing this, Prince Zhao’s appetite grew.
All of a sudden, an internal attendant appeared outside the bars. He claimed that he was an attendant from the Eastern Palace. The attendant proceeded to tell him that the Crown Prince could not bear to see Prince Zhao be killed and came to inform him beforehand. Prince Zhao was shocked. He thought that the Emperor had forgiven him.
The attendant said, “Your Highness is too gullible. Even if His Majesty wants to let you live, there are other people who will not let you. The person who swore to take your life is in the Royal Palace. Do you still remember the student that Qian Wenjing was most proud of?”
“As long as Your Highness is imprisoned here, your life will be at risk. Your only option is to escape from here as soon as possible.”
“Here...how can I escape?” Prince Zhao wavered.
“The Crown Prince cannot bear to see you lose your life. However, as this matter must be hidden, we cannot use anyone from the Eastern Palace. Your Highness, do you still have anyone you trust in Chang’an?”
Prince Zhao’s eyes spun. “Yes yes! There are still a few soldiers hidden in Chang’an. I gave them a new lease of life so they have sworn their lives to me!”
“That’s great! Your Highness, you just have to write down their names and locations and I will help you pass on the message. Soon you will be able to connect with the outside world. Your Highness doesn't have to worry about being imprisoned.”
Prince Zhao did not hesitate as he wrote down everything. He even personally wrote a letter to hand over to the attendant.
The attendant took a look at the dishes. “Please take care of yourself, Your Highness. Don’t consume dishes given to you by strangers.”
After the attendant left, Prince Zhao was fidgety as he walked in front of the table. He kicked the table leg, causing the dishes to fall to the ground. He was foolish. He did not know that actually there was nothing wrong with the food. He was the one that sent himself on the road of no return.
When Empress Zhangsun heard that the Emperor urgently summoned the Crown Prince, she rushed to Ganlou Palace. The Imperial Guards had found the letter that Prince Zhao wrote. When they handed it over to the Emperor, the Emperor was furious.
Because she had walked too fast, Empress Zhangsun was coughing breathlessly and was slightly unsteady. Fu Rou rushed to support her. “Your Majesty, your health is more important.”
Empress Zhangsun coughed, “I don’t understand. What exactly did Prince Zhao write that made the Emperor summon the Crown Prince immediately? What has it got to do with the Crown Prince? And Prince Zhao, I already told him that the Emperor intends to pardon him. Can’t he just wait patiently?”
Fu Rou remained silent as she held her. She disliked conspiracies and pretending that everything was alright. She only looked at the truth. Under a circumstance like this where she did not know much, she preferred to remain silent.
When they entered Ganlou Palace, Fu Rou realised that Prince Zhou and Prince Han were both around. They were listening to the Emperor’s rage.
“On account of our father son relationship, I did not want to punish him by death. I never expected him to plot scheme after scheme. He has no intention of repenting. I was too careless and did not think that he could dispatch death soldiers that are willing to die for him as his last attempt! It is written here that he wants to break out of prison and escape from Chang’an to achieve big things...are the big things he is referring to, rebellion? Is he trying to force me to the corner? He is the one that cut off the last thread of relationship that we had! Men!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter