The Emperor wore a serious expression as he entered Ganluo Palace. “Tell me. How did Zhan Xuanzhi die?”
There was already someone waiting in the hall. The person turned around. It was Du Ning, his expression was filled with sorrow.
“From investigations, they said that Teacher was killed by bandits on the road. However, that is not the truth. On that day, I was supposed to go with Teacher on his journey. However, Teacher was anxious and left first. When I chased up to him, Teacher was already severely injured. He told me that there was a traitor in the Eastern Palace.” Until now, the reason for Zhan Xuanzhi’s death had not been made public.
The Emperor asked, “Did Zhan Xuanzhi say who it was?”
Du Ning shook his head. “Teacher had been serving the Eastern Palace and was extremely loyal and cautious. He has never let slip any news of the Eastern Palace. I am not from the Eastern Palace so Teacher did not tell me anything. I only knew that he left Chang’an to meet Your Majesty at the Hot Spring Palace. He wanted to inform Your Majesty of the situation in the Eastern Palace.”
The Emperor sighed, “Before Zhan Xuanzhi passed on, did he say anything?”
Du Ning’s face was filled with pain. “Teacher said...that Your Majesty had entrusted the task to him and he could not finish it. He wanted me to...protect the Crown Prince on his behalf! Your Majesty! Even in his last breath, Teacher did not forget his duty and thought only of protecting the Crown Prince! Please seek justice for Teacher and search for the traitor from the Eastern Palace and get rid of him. Please don’t let Teacher die with a grievance!”
“If I search the Eastern Palace, Zhan Xuanzhi will really die with a grievance. You also know what happened during morning court today. If I search the Eastern Palace at this time, what will the Crown Prince think? What will the hundreds of officials think? I cannot reduce the Crown Prince’s reputation any further.”
Du Ning offered, “Since you cannot search, then please allow me to be part of the Eastern Palace. I will fulfil Teacher’s wish.”
“I understand your pain, but we cannot behave rashly for now.” The Emperor waved dismissively. “Go back to your duties. There will be a day that I need you.”
Du Ning could not do anything and could only take his leave.
The Emperor was distracted as he sat on his dragon throne. He absent-mindedly picked up a teacup and accidentally scalded his hand. His hand trembled and the cup fell to the ground.
Chief Cao kneeled. “I deserve to die for letting the hot tea scald Your Majesty!”
“I was careless. It is not your fault.” The Emperor felt awkward. “Ever since young, people have learned to distinguish between things. Like this water. I have to know how to distinguish between hot and cold so that I won’t get scalded or get a cold shock. Tell me, do you think the Crown Prince knows how to differentiate between hot and cold?”
Chief Cao replied carefully, “Of course the Crown Prince knows how to differentiate between hot and cold.”
The Emperor continued asked, “Then what about distinguishing between black and white, good and evil or loyal and treacherous?”
Chief Cao lowered his head. “This...Your Majesty. I don’t know anything and do not dare to answer. However, if His Highness does not even know how to distinguish between these things, then how will he unite the world and lead them?”
The Emperor sighed, “You are right. If he can’t even differentiate between these nor stand the turbulence in front of him now, how can I rest assured to leave Great Tang in his hands? Traitor? Previously, it was Chen Ji. My way of handling it caused the Crown Prince to push me away. This time, I cannot make a move. Since he is Great Tang’s Crown Prince, he has to learn how to distinguish between the people by his side. He has to learn to deal with adversity. Even if he falls, he must bravely stand up and continue forward.”
Chief Cao was respectful. “Your Majesty is brilliant.”
In winter, the weather was exceptionally cool and dreary. Concubine Yan was wearing a red fox fur coat as she stood in the garden. She looked in the direction of Ganluo Palace and Lizheng Palace.
She was smiling. “Did they think that a few family banquets could resolve all their internal conflict? The Empress has been ill for a while and is no longer thinking clearly. How can a few drops of water put out a prairie fire? Power is the best firewood in the world.”
“The conflict between the Crown Prince and Prince Han has always been suppressed by the Empress. Now, with what You Jianming said in court, these resentment that has been forcefully suppressed will surge forth. The Empress will not be able to control it.” Beside her, there was always a shadow known as ‘Yu He’.
“I am very curious. How did Yan Zifang get You Jianming to promise to take this risk?” Concubine Yan asked.
“Yan Zifang only manages the West City now, but his reach is all over Chang’an. On the surface, You Jianming seems like an upright official and an Iron Mask Imperial Censor. However, unbeknownst to his family, he actually keeps a mistress. This mistress even gave birth to his son. When Yan Zifang found out, he got hold of his weakness. As Your Highness knows, Yan Zifang used to be a pirate. Threatening people, along with blackmailing, is second nature to him. Moreover, he knows how to use both carrots and stick. With a little trickery, how can You Jianming stand up to him? If exposed, not only will You Jianming’s reputation be ruined, he might also die a horrible death.”
“Speaking of which, it is all thanks to Fu Shui that we could get Yan Zifang on our side.” Concubine Yan stopped staring and smiled freely. “I asked you to send the gift. Did you see Fu Shui? Is he well? When he was young, you already entered the palace and you both hardly got to see each other. If there is a chance in the future, I will get him to accompany you so that you can enjoy some family love.” Concubine Yan seemed to make him a promise.
Yu He’s smile deepened. “Hopefully, that day will come.”
“It definitely will.” Concubine Yan headed towards her palace. “The Crown Prince is fortunate. Every time something happens to him, there is always someone that steps out to protect him. The Grand Emperor and the Emperor both did the same. However, this blessing of his will come to an end. I heard that the Empress coughed out blood?”
Yu He replied, “Yes. Recently, she has not left Lizheng Palace.”
“This reminds me. I should drink some ginseng soup.” Concubine Yan entered her palace.
Princess Xinnan decided that no matter what, she was going to talk to her elder brother, the Crown Prince, about her and Sheng Chuling today. She wanted him to help her speak up in front of Imperial Father and Imperial Mother. When she reached the Eastern Palace, Sun Lingshu told her that the Crown Prince and Grand Prince Liang were at the military drill ground. She then asked to carry Xiang’er to find the Crown Prince together. Sun Lingshu knew that she loved children and did not stop her.
When Xinnan reached the military drill ground, she did not see the Crown Prince but saw Sheng Chuling tied to a pole. He was currently being lashed at. The Crown Prince was feeling depressed. Fu Shui influenced him to find Grand Prince Liang. Grand Prince Liang then suggested that their guards formed two separate teams and fought on horsebacks like what the foreigners did. Sheng Chuling had no choice but to participate. However, because Grand Prince Liang’s guards were barbaric, his fellow guards were severely injured and some were in critical condition. Therefore, he rebelled. At that time, the Crown Prince was recovering from his drinks. Grand Prince Liang heard Fu Shui say that this lad was Sheng Chumu’s younger brother and took the chance.
“Stop it!” Xinnan did not know that this was a deliberate attempt to get back at the Duke Lu Residence as she rushed in front of Sheng Chuling.
Grand Prince Liang instructed for the people carrying out the punishment to stop. He stepped forward and smiled. “Xinnan, why have you come?”
Xinnan was fuming. “Why are you hitting him?”
“This brat was disrespectful to me…” Grand Prince Liang found it strange. “Eh, what has me hitting him got to do with you?”
Xinnan shouted, “You are too much! Let him down now!”
Grand Prince Liang’s face fell. “Xinnan, is that how you talk to your uncle? No respect.”
Xinnan snorted, “You are a drunkard and lecherous. How dare you act like an uncle in front of me? I haven’t sorted it out with you for hitting him like this!” She glared angrily at the guards on both sides. “Aren’t you going to let him down quickly?”
“Who dares to?” Grand Prince Liang blew up. “Sheng Chuling did not listen to orders and disobeyed me. It is only proper that I punish him. Men, continue hitting him. Hit him until he begs for mercy.”
“Who dares?” Xinnan spread her hands out like a mother hen protecting her chick.
The Crown Prince returned and frowned when he saw what was happening. “What is going on?”
Xinnan thought her saviour had arrived. “Brother Crown Prince! Grand Prince Liang is hitting people for no reason. Brother Crown Prince, hurry and help me!”
Grand Prince Liang spoke, “Crown Prince, you are the one that said I could use these guards. Sheng Chuling did not listen to me and rebelled in front of me. Tell me, should I punish him?”
The Crown Prince and Grand Prince Liang were close. Moreover, he wanted to set an example and use Sheng Chuling to punish Duke Lu Residence to hurt Prince Han.
He naturally said, “Of course you cannot let such an arrogant and rude brat go so easily.”
Xinnan shouted, “Brother Crown Prince!”
The Crown Prince was strict. “Xinnan, he is just a guard that should be punished. Why are you protecting him? Let’s hand him over to Grand Prince Liang to handle.”
“Since the Crown Prince is letting me deal with this, then I won’t stand on courtesy.” Grand Prince Liang gestured to his guards. “Continue hitting him.”
Xinnan was fuming. She pushed and hit the guards that lifted the whip. The guards did not dare to resist.
“Let me do it!” Grand Prince Liang snatched the whip over and lashed out fiercely at Sheng Chuling.
Xinnan pounced over and hugged Sheng Chuling. “You are going to hit him? Hit him if you dare! Grand Emperor is dead. If you dare to hit me, let’s see how Imperial Father deals with you!”
Grand Prince Liang was fuming. “Very good! Other people look down on me. Now even you, a junior is looking down on me? I am your uncle. Do you think I do not dare to hit you?” He swung the whip and hit them both together.
As the Crown Prince saw Xinnan get hit, he wanted to ask Grand Prince Liang to stop. Fu Shui muttered beside him, “The sword that you borrowed has just been lifted. If Your Highness speaks up now, this sword will have to be placed down once again and all your efforts will be wasted.”
The Crown Prince did not make a sound.
Sun Lingshu noticed that Xinnan did not return and came over to take a look. She saw that Grand Prince Liang was hitting Xinnan and Sheng Chuling. She was extremely shocked. She quickly walked up to the Crown Prince. “Your Highness, this…”
The Crown Prince was cold. “It is none of our business.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sigh. Xinnan wanted the Crown Prince to help her get together with Chuling too... -_-