Sheng Chumu nimbly climbed up a tree and looked over the tall wall. He saw Prince Han sit by himself at the stone table, drinking wine. He looked to be free of worries. Sheng Chumu finally relaxed. He retrieved a small jug of wine from his waist. Leaning back against the tree branch, he started to drink.
This morning, the Emperor had rewarded a bunch of people and he was included. However, he was unhappy. His sister and Chujun were no longer around. What meaning would another title and more rewards have?
After thinking through everything that had happened, he felt that there was something still amiss. Both the Crown Prince and Prince Han had suffered immensely.
Prince Han suddenly muttered to himself, “For my consort, I hate my own brother to the core. I finally beat him but realised the true conspirator was the Crown Princess.” He chuckled to himself, “Crown Princess, you deserve to die! You poisoned your own sister, framed my consort and instigated the Crown Prince and me to kill each other. Don’t you think you deserve to die? But Crown Princess, why did you have to do all these evil deeds? I have never ever thought of becoming the Crown Prince. Never!”
Sheng Chumu coughed and dug his ear. Why does this Brother-in-law talk so loudly to himself?
Prince Han heard him and shook his head, standing up. “Imperial Father reprimanded me and said that I was inhuman and lacked virtue to kill my own sister-in-law. So what if I lack virtue? After all, I never thought of becoming the Crown Prince and don’t care about my reputation. If I were to be given another chance, I would still kill her and take revenge for my consort. But although I have taken revenge, I will never be able to drink the soup that my consort made ever again. If you have someone you love, you must treasure them. Fighting, jealousy, disagreements are nothing big. As long as the person you like is still alive, you will have a chance to meet. That is a huge blessing. Do you understand?”
No one replied to him.
Prince Han decided to just shout, “Chumu, did you hear me?” He knew that he was on the tree.
Sheng Chumu could not help but speak. “Brother-in-law, lower your voice. You have been punished by the Emperor to be in house arrest. If you alert the guards watching over you, your punishment will be harsher.”
Prince Han did not care. “I am now a broken jar, they can punish me however they like. I am telling you, don’t bear a grudge on Court Lady Fu. She stopped you from killing the Crown Princess for your own good. I am the son of the Empress and after doing all that, I ended up like this. If you were the one that took action, you would have been executed. Court Lady Fu saved you. She must still have you in her heart.”
Sheng Chumu drank his wine. After everything had settled, he could see things clearly but he could not turn back.
“Xinnan sent a letter. She scolded Court Lady Fu and said Court Lady Fu exposed me to Imperial Father and that is why I am being punished now. Xinnan is a silly girl. Imperial Father is wise, even if we can hide the Crown Princess’ death from him for a day, we will not be able to hide it from him forever. I will admit to the things I have done. No one has to help me cover up. Court Lady Fu cannot be blamed for this.” This was Prince Han’s heartfelt sentiments. “Chumu, I can no longer help you in the future. You have to take care of yourself. Remember, nothing else is as important as the fact that both you and the person you love is alive.”
Sheng Chumu finally spoke, “So what if we are alive? Every time we see each other, we hurt each other. Since you are alright, it is late and I am going back to sleep.”
The tree leaves rustled and slowly stopped moving.
“Pain? What do you know of pain? Drinking by myself everyday, worrying that I will grow old alone. I am afraid one day I will not even be able to recall the way she looks when she smiles. That is true pain.” Prince Han smiled drunkenly, “Consort, come and drink with me. Imperial Father has locked the Han Mansion. It is okay, I have already left instructions. The beauty ointments will still be sent daily. It is actually good that the door is locked. With the door locked, I won’t go anywhere. I will accompany you. If only I had accompanied you that day, who would have dared to hurt you? Who could have forced you to drink the poison wine ah--”
The smiling face turned to a crying one. Tears flowed down his face.
Fu Rou heard that Concubine Yan was unconscious and personally brought two female imperial physicians as soon as possible. The Emperor had rushed to visit Concubine Yan as well and praised Fu Rou for being considerate. He then asked Yu He what happened.
Yu He replied, “Her Highness was having tea with other noble ladies. Other than the noble ladies, palace maids and internal attendants were present as well. There were at least twenty people present and she fainted after a short while.”
The Emperor asked what tea they were having.
“They were having Her Highness’ favourite Yang Purple Bamboo Shoot Tea. She drinks it at least once a day.” Yu He’s tone became slightly more serious. “Before Her Highness fainted, she was just telling Concubine Qiao how they added licorice root in the tea.”
The imperial physician made an “Aiya” sound. “Your Majesty, I understand now. The licorice root must have been what made Her Highness unconscious. Licorice root is said to be able to replenish vital energy, clear internal heat and detoxify. However, licorice root also has a toxic side. Moreover, Her Highness frequently has phlegm and should abstain from having licorice root.”
The Emperor blamed Yu He, “Foolish! You actually used licorice root in the tea. Is this how you serve Concubine Yan?”
Yu He kneeled down. “Please calm down, Your Majesty! Using licorice root to brew tea was a recipe given by others. Because Your Majesty was the one that gave Her Highness the Yang Purple Bamboo Shoot Tea, Her Highness treasured it greatly. She said that brewing it normally would not be enough. Who would have known that a tea brewing recipe will contain something that hurt Her Highness? I was not careful, I deserve to die!”
Yu He retrieved the recipe and passed it to the imperial physician to have a look.
Prince Zhou asked, “Who was the one that gave this recipe? Mother’s body is weak and everyone knows it. What are they trying to do by giving a recipe like this?”
Yu He lowered his eyes. “This recipe was given by Official Situ Zhen.”
At this moment, Fu Rou glanced at Yu He. She knew that Situ Zhen had submitted two petitions for Prince Han. Now, Concubine Yan’s side was mentioning Situ Zhen. Everything was too coincidental.
“Situ Zhen?” Alas, the Emperor thought in the direction of conspiracies. “He is submitting petitions for Prince Han and giving tea brewing recipes. There is no official in court that is as busy as him.”
Yu He replied, “Official Situ Zhen enjoys brewing tea and coming up with tea brewing recipes. This licorice root recipe was made personally by Official Situ Zhen. When he gave this recipe, Her Highness saw and thought that it was not bad, who would have known…”
Fu Rou could not hold herself back, “Your Majesty, regarding Consort Yan’s illness, I have something that I don’t understand and would like to ask the imperial physician. I hope that Your Majesty will allow me to.”
The Emperor gave permission and Fu Rou asked the imperial physician. “With regard to the medical condition of noble ladies in the palace, will the Imperial Physician Office let it be known to others?”
The imperial physician immediately shook his head. “The medical condition of the noble ladies in the palace are highly classified and the Imperial Physician Office would never dare to tell anyone about it.”
Fu Rou continued, “So it means that although everyone knows that Concubine Yan’s health is weak, they don’t know why she is weak. They would not know that she is suffering from phlegm and what she should abstain from taking. An official like Official Situ should definitely have no idea.”
Yu He’s expression did not change. “Court Lady Fu, you are normally attentive only to the knitting and consumption needs of the various noble ladies. How would you know about the mindset of those harbouring unfathomable motives? Those that are good at using tricks may know things that others do not know about.”
“I wouldn’t know if someone is very good at tricks. However, I would like to ask Chief Yu. Did Official Situ personally hand the tea brewing recipe to Concubine Yan?” Fu Rou knew too clearly.
“This…” Yu He hesitated, “The recipe was given to the palace.”
Prince Zhou suddenly spoke, “Since he gave it to the palace, then Official Situ Zhen should know that my mother might use it. Imperial Father, Situ Zhen is really on the same side as Prince Han. He actually has unfathomable motives for giving the recipe. We have to bring Situ Zhen in to interrogate him.”
“Your Highness, do you know how many tea brewing methods are submitted from outside?” There was disappointment in Fu Rou’s eyes. She never thought that Prince Zhou, who was normally clear, would pretend to be foolish.
Naturally, Prince Zhou could not answer.
Fu Rou answered her own question, “In the past two years, the nobles in the palace have enjoyed brewing tea and there have been many recipes brought in from outside. All recipes that are brought in have to be recorded in the Imperial Food Office. As I manage the Six Offices, the Imperial Food Office is under my jurisdiction. When I was going through their books, I remember that there were 407 tea brewing recipes recorded.”
Prince Zhou narrowed his eyes. “The Six Offices have so many books, Court Lady Fu, your memory is pretty good.”
Fu Rou lowered her eyes. “I have been assigned my responsibilities and do not dare to be negligent. I just think that if Official Situ really had bad intentions towards Concubine Yan, this method depends too highly on luck. How would he know if amongst the 407 recipes, Her Highness would choose his? Her Highness is the one that chooses the recipe, not Official Situ. Moreover, I only remember the total number of recipes. As for the contents of the recipes, peppercorn, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, orange peel -- I don’t remember them exactly. When I head back, I will look through them carefully and see if Official Situ was the only one that used licorice root. If there are a few more that coincidentally gave their recipes and coincidentally use licorice root as well, would you interrogate all of them, Prince Zhou? If we use this logic and deduction, then should we also interrogate everyone that has submitted a recipe that contains any ingredient that people with phlegm should abstain from. Will this harm His Majesty’s reputation?” If they had to eradicate any official that did not share the same opinions, then would reason still exist?
The Emperor was ultimately a wise ruler. “As a court official, Official Situ Zhen should be reprimanded for not focusing on his duty and trying to flatter by giving recipes. But when it comes to saying that he intentionally wants to hurt Concubine Yan, Prince Zhou, you are too suspicious. You have just begun to learn how to handle official court matters. Distinguishing clearly between right and wrong is the first thing. I know that you care deeply for your mother but you can’t just vent your anger like this.”
“Imperial Father, you are right. I understand my mistake. I will stay here to take care of my mother. As long as she does not wake up, I will not leave.” Prince Zhou glanced at Fu Rou. “ I heard that when someone is unconscious, they are still aware of what is going on around them. If someone speaks to her often, perhaps she will wake up faster. Mother has always admired Court Lady Fu and Court Lady Fu’s words are pleasant to listen to. I would like for Court Lady Fu to stay behind and serve Mother along with me. Please allow this, Imperial Father.”
The Emperor nodded, giving his permission.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
These last few chapters are sooo mehhhh. But hang in there!
There will be 2 episodes airing on Thurs, Fri and Sat. The finale is this coming Sunday!