Chapter 87.3: Heaven's Punishment

After Fu Rou sent Imperial Concubine Wang off, Wei Song told her that Zhi He had died in the lightning incident.

Wei Song sighed, lamenting that there were times where heaven was blind as well. Fu Rou, however, did not believe in such things and she headed to Fu An Palace to check. She then found a clue under the tree that Prince Qin had been lying at. She did not act rashly and first went to consult a grand scribe. She found out that there was going to be another heavy rain, accompanied with lightning and thunder. She then invited the Emperor to Fu An Palace.

Although the Emperor came, he was visibly unhappy. “Instead of going to Ganlou Palace to meet me, you asked me to walk through the rain in the middle of the night to a ruined palace. You are the only female official with such guts. If you don’t give me a good reason, I will punish you severely.”

Fu Rou replied, “If tonight’s thunderstorm causes Fu An Palace to once again be struck by lightning, it is heaven blessing Great Tang with good fortune to flourish.”

“Lightning strikes are not common. Yesterday night, Fu An Palace has already been struck by lightning, how can it be so coincidental that tonight…” The Emperor did not even complete his sentence before a flash of lightning cut through the sky and struck the remains of Fu An Palace.

The Emperor was shocked, “What is going on?”

Fu Rou kneeled, “Your Majesty, yesterday night, Fu An Palace was not destroyed because of the so-called heaven’s will. It was because someone had meddled with it and intentionally attracted the lightning strike!” She waved and instructed people to bring the burnt flagpole over. Where the flagpole was broken, there was a glistening yellow colour. 

“I have asked a craftsman to analyse this. It is made from brass. We have always been using wooden flagpoles to hang auspicious coloured flags around the palace. This time, however, the colourful flags used to celebrate Imperial Concubine Wang’s birthday were made from brass. These brass flag poles were covered up by ink. However, as soon as there is rain, the outer layer of ink would be washed off and expose the brass inside. I don’t exactly know how this is able to attract lightning. However, at every corner of Fu An Palace that had been struck, there would be a brass flagpole. Therefore, Chief Wei and I prepared a test and would like Your Majesty to witness it.”

“This was entirely Court Lady Fu’s idea.” Wei Song kneeled and reported, “It was rumoured that before the incident happened at Fu An Palace, these brass flag poles had been secretly placed at the highest points of Fu An Palace. Moreover, the tree that was struck first was the highest tree in Fu An Palace.”

The Emperor touched the brass flag pole. “So you are saying that these flag poles attracted the lightning?”

Fu Rou continued, “Your Majesty, that lightning just now had struck the brass flag pole directly. Even if it sounds unimaginable, we can see clearly what happened. They are the true reason why Fu An Palace had been struck by lightning.”

The Emperor had had his suspicions and now, the truth was right before him. “Demons and monsters, how dare they try to fool around under my watch. I will not let them go easily! Wei Song, how did these brass flag poles enter Fu An Palace? Go and investigate now!”

Wei Song had already investigated. “All of Imperial Concubine Wang’s birthdays are settled by Concubine Zhen. I heard that the idea of wrapping these flagpoles with red silk for luck was also her idea.”

The Emperor’s gaze hardened. “This has implicated the harem. Concubine Yan is in charge of the Six Offices. Summon Concubine Zhen to Concubine Yan’s palace now. I have to interrogate her personally.”

Wei Song acknowledged.

The Emperor looked at Fu Rou. “Follow me.”

The group of them reached Concubine Yan’s palace. Concubine Zhen was already kneeling with a frightened look on her face. 

As soon as she saw the Emperor, she wailed, “Your Majesty, I have been wrongly accused! It is true that I used colourful flags to decorate Fu An Palace but the flag poles used were made out of wood. I personally touched and saw it. It was definitely made out of wood! How could it possibly turn into brass? Moreover, I have nothing against Imperial Concubine Wang and even agree with her ways. Why would I hurt Imperial Concubine Wang?”

“Concubine Zhen makes sense. Imperial Concubine Wang is old and has no animosity with anyone. There is no need for her to put in so much effort to hurt Imperial Concubine Wang.” Concubine Yan’s tone changed, “The person she is trying to hurt must be Prince Qin.”

Concubine Zhen was stunned. “Do not accuse me!”

Concubine Yan’s gaze was cold. “Prince Qin is well-liked by His Majesty and does not pose a problem to you. However, things change with time.”

Concubine Zhen shouted, “Your Majesty, that is not true! Concubine Yan is spouting absolute nonsense. She is jealous that I am pregnant with your child and is trying to frame me!”

Yu He clapped and internal attendants immediately brought Concubine Zhen’s personal maid, Wutong, in. It was obvious that she had been tortured.

Fu Rou frowned. Concubine Yan moved very quickly.

Concubine Yan guided patiently, “Wutong, don’t be afraid. His Majesty is present. Tell us everything that you saw and heard.”

Wutong wore a frightened expression as her voice sounded empty, “After Concubine Zhen got pregnant, she thought that His Majesty would focus solely on her. She never thought that not only would His Majesty not visit her often, he would frequently go visit Concubine Yan. Concubine Zhen was furious and complained several times. She once said that Li Chengqian was incapable and threw away his precious Crown Prince position. Now that Great Tang was going to have a new Crown Prince, every prince had a chance. If she gave birth to a son, he would be His Majesty’s youngest son. She also said that men always doted on their youngest child. Back then, Lady Gouyi gave birth to Prince Fuling. Because Prince Fuling was Emperor Wu’s youngest son, he made Prince Fuling the Crown Prince.”

Concubine Zhen was on the receiving end of the Emperor’s glare and she could not help but admit, “I have always trusted this traitor and when no one is around, I would joke around with her but do not mean it. How dare she use it to stir up trouble now. Your Majesty, you know me the best, I just like to talk but I never truly harmed anyone. Your Majesty, I really didn’t do it!”

“Your Majesty, I have made a mistake. I am in charge of the Six Offices but never found this poisonous snake hiding in the harem. I have failed my duties.” With this, Concubine Yan wanted to punish her as an example to others.

Concubine Zhen was aghast, “Concubine Yan, you…”

Fu Rou spoke, “Your Majesty, other than a notice, abilities are also necessary in order to hurt others. Although this palace maid, Wutong, is witness to the complaints that Concubine Zhen has made, is Concubine Zhen actually capable of doing something like this? Where would she get so many brass flag poles? How did she manage to switch the wooden flag poles for brass ones without anyone knowing?”

Concubine Zhen seemed to become alert. “Your Majesty, Court Lady Fu is right. The flag poles were all brought by people from the Internal Attendant Department.”

Fu Rou continued, “The brass flag poles were covered with dye to make it look like wooden flag poles. But the difference in weight between a brass flag pole and a wooden flag pole is obvious and anyone would notice it just by holding it. Why did no one from the Internal Attendant Department question this? Could Concubine Zhen have bought over everyone from the Internal Attendant Department?”

Concubine Zhen hurriedly provided a clue, “An internal attendant named Yang Sheng was the one that coordinated the hanging of the colourful flags. They were all Yang Sheng’s men. He was also the one who took the flag poles from the storage.”

The Emperor immediately called for Yang Sheng to be summoned. Yang Sheng was brought over.

Concubine Zhen looked like she had caught onto her chance of survival. “That’s him! He must have been the one that did it! He was the one that caused Fu An Palace to be struck by lightning! Yang Sheng, why would you do such a crazy thing? Tell us! Hurry and admit to your crime!”

Yang Sheng first stared deeply into Concubine Zhen’s eyes, as if to tell her to rest assured. He then turned to the Emperor. “Your Majesty, everything was done by me. I was once reprimanded by Imperial Concubine Wang for a small mistake and I wanted to be transferred to Prince Qin to do small tasks. However, Prince Qin said that he did not lack anyone and did not want me. I already hated him. I heard that when brass poles are placed high up, they would be able to attract lightning. Therefore I took the chance when Concubine Zhen was decorating Fu An Palace to change the wooden poles to brass ones. This entire thing was done by me. Concubine Zhen knows nothing about it. Please do not wrongly blame Concubine Zhen, Concubine Zhen is innocent! My relatives outside the palace have already died long ago. I will take responsibility for my own actions!”

As soon as he finished speaking, he ran and struck his head against a pillar.

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Coca's Thoughts

...so dramatic...