In a single move, Sheng Chumu finished Fu Shui’s villa. Although the people in there either fought to death or committed suicide, he managed to find an old Sui Dynasty flag. In the rear mountain, he found an unrecognisable female corpse. He guessed that this was the missing Lian Yan’er.
This incident attracted the attention of various officials under Situ Zhen’s lead and the Emperor could not ignore it.
Situ Zhen spoke frankly. Emperor Yang’s daughter, Concubine Yan, gave birth to Prince Zhou and he is a descendent of the Sui Dynasty. He could not ascend the throne. Even Fang Xuanling, who did not take a side on issues like choosing the Crown Prince, suggested letting Prince Qin be the Crown Prince. Prince Zhou should assist as best as he could. The position of power was fixed and no one would criticize Prince Zhou.
The Emperor did not immediately express his stand and merely asked Prince Qin to go to Daci'en Temple to prepare the Empress’ Luck Ceremony. They would make a decision when he returned.
When everyone heard this, they could read in between the lines. It was clear that the Emperor had intentions to crown Prince Qin as the Crown Prince.
When Sheng Chumu walked out of Ganlou Palace, he saw Fu Rou waiting by the side and immediately turned his head to the other side. He walked past her as if he did not see her. Although Fu Rou did not feel good, she did not show it.
The Emperor summoned Fu Rou. He wanted her to accompany Prince Qin along with Linghu Deguan as their guard.
Fu Rou was about to leave when an internal attendant came in to report. He said that Prince Han was throwing a tantrum because the person in-charge of him did not buy him the beauty ointment. Prince Han had knocked over a fire pan and almost burned down a room.
The Emperor had a headache.
Fu Rou thought that it was about time. “Your Majesty, a dragon playing in shallow waters will also be disturbed by fishes and shrimps. In the past, Prince Han lived like a prince, now he is under house arrest because of his mistake. The people looking after him might not be as respectful to him as in the past. I heard that there were even servants that dared to mock Prince Han directly. Prince Han must have been agitated. Moreover, ever since Your Majesty punished Prince Han, you have never called in Prince Han, much less teach him. A child’s mistake…” She did not complete the saying, taking care not to overdo it.
The Emperor took over, “...is my failure right?” He pondered for a moment. “Pass down my decree. Prince Han is released from house arrest. Summon him to the palace and lock him up with the Crown Prince.”
Fu Rou wanted to laugh and cry. She had wanted to help Prince Han but got the opposite result. Therefore, there were times where she should not be a smart aleck. This time, she only wished that Prince Han and the Crown Prince would be safe and not make things worse.
Prince Han walked into the prison cell and saw the Crown Prince seated in the corner. His face immediately changed.
“Open the door. Change my prison cell.” The internal attendant’s prison was so big. Why did they have to share the same cell?
The internal attendant laughed as he was put in a spot. “This is His Majesty’s order and I cannot disobey. Please pardon me, Your Highness.” It was not easy to keep watch of the Internal Attendant Prison. All the prisoners were of royal blood. They may be unlucky now but may be able to bounce back the next moment.
Seeing how the internal attendant did not even turn back, Prince Han had no choice. However, as he turned around, the Crown Prince's face appeared in front of him.
“Why did you sneak up on me?” Prince Han jumped as he wrapped his hands into meaty fists. “Our subordinates are gone and our consorts are dead. Our wings are gone and there is only you and me left. Very good, Li Chengqian. If you are capable, let’s fight one on one.”
The Crown Prince wrapped his hands slowly around Prince Han’s fists. “This pair of hands strangled the Crown Princess.”
Prince Han shook off his hands. “That’s right! I was the one that strangled the Crown Princess. My consort died because of her, how can I not take revenge? My consort has always treated her so well. Our wives could have had a peaceful relationship and helped strengthen ours…” As he spoke, his nose clogged up and tears formed in his eyes. “I was the one that emphasised and reminded her to send that plate of jujube cakes into the Eastern Palace. If I had known...if I had known…even if I made Imperial Mother angry, I would not have tried to make you happy.”
The Crown Prince suddenly pressed his hands on his face as his entire body trembled. It was clear that he was in extreme pain. “No, it was because of me... that’s why the Crown Princess...I am the one who let her down. I harmed her…”
Seeing the Crown Prince in this state, pain filled Prince Han. “I also hurt my consort...if not for me, she would not have died…”
Both brothers sat in separate corners, their faces cold.
The Crown Prince spoke, “The poison under the saddle…”
Prince Han replied, “I didn’t do it.”
The Crown Prince said, “I know.”
Prince Han was shocked. “Back then when I tried to explain it to you, you did not believe me. Why do you believe me now?”
“I don’t know why but I believe you now. It feels like someone has told me the truth. You were not the one responsible for the saddle…” The Crown Prince struggled to recall, only to feel his head start to hurt. He grabbed onto his head.
Although at the last moment Fu Shui gave the antidote to the Crown Prince, the poison had affected his memories and everything was a blur to him now.
Prince Han did not mind. “It is too late to be remorseful.” However, he himself got caught up in memories. “When I was young, I heard my tutor say that the sun can be used to tell the time. I asked my teacher for many days before I finally managed to make my own sundial. I brought it to you happily but you simply threw it in the box you used for junk.”
“You were clumsy. In order to make that sundial, you got many cuts on your hands. If I had cherished it, it would only encourage you to continue doing those kinds of strenuous yet unrewarding handicrafts. I was afraid that you would be happy and want to make another one, adding more injuries to your hands.”
Prince Han was silent.
The Crown Prince spoke, “When I broke my leg, your Han Mansion sent a skinless tiger’s claw. You mocked me cruelly.”
Prince Han shouted in indignance, “Who exactly is creating misunderstandings between us? My Han Mansion sent ginseng. We have never sent a tiger’s claw. I swear on Imperial Mother’s spirit in heaven. If there is any lie in my words, I will be struck by lightning!”
The Crown Prince fell silent.
Yu He slapped Fu Shui. “Why is the Crown Prince still alive?”
Today, he had gone to the Imperial Physician Department and found out that the Crown Prince was finally eating normally all thanks to his son. He clearly sent Fu Shui to get rid of the Crown Prince. He never expected Fu Shui to disobey him. This was something that had never happened before!
Fu Shui’s expression was calm. “He has already lost everything and will never be able to bounce back. Why do we have to kill him?”
Yu He glared at him furiously. “Since when did you know how to sympathise with the enemy? The Li family killed your grandfather and stole our Great Sui!”
“But no matter what, he treats me as his own. I have already betrayed him. If I take his life, how different will I be from a beast?” Fu Shui lowered his eyes. “I have already done so much for you and I will trade it for his life. If you persist on killing him, don’t blame me for being heartless.”
“You!” Yu He never thought that his son would be so determined for the Crown Prince. This was the most critical time and they should be united. They could not lose something bigger because of this small issue. “Forget it. As long as the Crown Prince never leaves the prison, I can forget it temporarily.”
The atmosphere between the father and son momentarily grew cold.
Concubine Yan walked out from the side palace fuming. She failed to realise the weird tension between them. “I never thought that even after the Empress is gone, she could still win over the old ministers. I am afraid that the Emperor has decided to make Prince Qin the Crown Prince.”
Yu He was humble. “It is all because we were careless. We did not expect Sheng Chumu to raid Fu Shui’s villa and find Great Sui’s flag, causing us to become passive.”
Fu Shui stepped forward. “Your Highness, please do not be worried. Sheng Chumu did not manage to get any live witnesses. It will be difficult to accuse us of anything just from an old flag. As for Prince Qin, he can escape now but he won’t be able to escape forever. I have already made arrangements. He will leave but never be able to return.”
Concubine Yan let out a sigh. “Thankfully, we have you to help us. If not, no matter how I try, it would be difficult for me to achieve anything. The Emperor looks like he dotes on me and Prince Zhou but he has always made his own decisions as he wishes. As soon as Prince Qin is crowned the Crown Prince, the road will definitely be paved for him. At that time, Prince Zhou will be forced to return to his feudal land. In the end, he would just be an empty rich lord.”
“Great Sui has hope because there is Your Highness and Prince Zhou. You give value to my existence. I will definitely do my best to help Prince Zhou ascend the throne.”
Concubine Yan nodded. “Good! Good child!”
Yu He glanced at his son, his frown easing. Thankfully, he still had the bigger picture in mind.
Fu Shui noticed his father’s expression and felt slightly at ease. It seems like the Crown Prince would be able to live for the time being.
The road was bumpy as the group headed to Qingxiu Temple and Daci’en Temple. Fu Rou pulled open the carriage’s curtains and looked at the beautiful spring mountain scenery. The camellia had started to wilt, while the flowers greeting spring started to bloom. There were also all sorts of wild flowers. Even the best embroidery would not be able to depict the brilliance of the entire mountain.
There was not a single spot that was splendorous, yet it was so beautiful that it caught her breath. She could breathe easily and relax. There was no need to worry about the eyes in the dark, trying to conspire to kill others.
Of course, she was not only looking at the scenery. Occasionally, she would look to the front and back. In front of her was Prince Qin’s carriage and behind her was Concubine Zhen’s carriage. She had to watch both sides. All of a sudden, the wind blew the curtains of the carriage behind her open. She caught sight of Concubine Zhen vomiting.
Fu Rou thought about it and asked Linghu Deguan, who was riding a horse beside her. “General, is it time for us to stop and rest? We are used to the comfort in the palace and can’t take it in the carriage; especially since we are traveling on mountain roads. I feel giddy.”
Linghu Deguan raised his brows. “This...I’ll have to ask Prince Qin.”
Fu Rou smiled slightly, “Of course. Thank you, General.”
Prince Qin heard that Fu Rou wanted to rest and was naturally fine with it. The group stopped at a gradual slope and Fu Rou appeared before the pale Concubine Zhen. She handed over a smell bottle.
“This is a scent that the Empress always brought with her when she went travelling. It clears your mind and raises your spirits. It doesn’t harm pregnant women either.” Before they left, she had reminisced about the time when she accompanied the Empress to Cangshan Mountain. When she was brought back to reality, she had already packed it.
Concubine Zhen hesitated but took it in the end. She smelled it and felt a lot better.
“Court Lady Fu--” Concubine Zhen paused, “Thank you.”
“It is no trouble, Your Highness.” Fu Rou was about to leave.
“I thanked you not only for this bottle.” Concubine Zhen spoke once again, “I don’t have very good relationships in the palace and have never rewarded or helped you with anything. Even if you help me, I can’t repay you. I was accused of so many crimes, coveting the Crown Prince position, hurting Prince Qin, yet you were willing to speak up for me. Aren’t you worried about getting implicated?”
Fu Rou asked in return, “Your Highness, were you really the one that tried to hurt Imperial Concubine Wang?”
Concubine Zheng shook her head. “Of course not.”
Fu Rou smiled slightly. “I thought so too.”
Concubine Zhen had a surprised look. “But in the palace, it is not just about who is right or wrong. There are also gains and losses…”
Fu Rou cut her off. “Personal gains and losses are small. The royal palace is a role model and the heart of Great Tang. If the palace is covered by lies and schemes, causing innocent people to suffer and conspirators to win, what will become of the world? If the nation is strong, the citizens are strong and Great Tang will flourish. This should be the gains and losses that matter to everyone. Be it my body or my heart, they all belong to Great Tang.”
Concubine Zhen was deeply moved. “You spoke well.”
“I am going to take a look at His Highness. Your Highness should take the chance to rest.” Fu Rou took her leave.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
The Crown Prince and Prince Han are kinda getting along now...