In Concubine Yan’s palace, Concubine Yan had smashed things all over the place.
All these years, she had been tolerating and even hid her true self. Only heaven knew how difficult it had been to hide. She was born as a princess and was favoured by her father. What a glorious bloodline. However, just because the royal family fell, she could only marry the current Emperor and was not even his main wife. Amongst others, she was just a concubine. Even after she gained the Emperor’s love, she was always suppressed by Empress Zhangsun. From her position to her son’s position, Empress Zhangsun did not relent as she stepped all over her and her son.
She knew very clearly that she just needed to capture the Emperor’s heart in order to bring victory to her and her son. Hence, she always put on a smiling face in front of everyone. Whoever mentioned her would always think of her as a kind leader. She hardly said anything harsh even to the people serving her. She was afraid of damaging her reputation and losing the Emperor's heart. She was supposed to be well-loved and hold a position with thousands of people revering her. She was supposed to be able to say what she wants, do what she wants and recklessly speak her mind. She had always been proud. Now, she had gotten rid of the Empress, the Crown Prince and Prince Han. However, she was still losing out to a tiny female official. It caused her true arrogant self to explode. She no longer had to pretend.
Chief Cao waited until Concubine Yan had simmered before he calmly persuaded her. “Your Highness does not need to be angry. As long as we control the bigger picture and Prince Zhou smoothly ascends the throne, you will easily be able to dictate if that female official dies.”
Concubine Yan thought about it and let out a slow breath as she sat down. “How is the reaction of the Imperial Guards to Ge’er’s order?”
Chief Cao replied, “Everyone is pretty okay and is willing to listen using either punishments or rewards. Linghu Deguan and Sheng Chumu are the only stubborn ones who refuse to listen to anyone aside from the Emperor himself. They are not budging even after Prince Zhou’s order.”
Concubine Yan snorted, “Sheng Chumu is just a general of a hundred soldiers. He has so little men and is not a big deal.”
“Yes. However, Linghu Deguan is a great general of the Imperial Guards. If he remains reluctant, I am afraid that there will be variables.”
“Then hurry up and rope in the rest to isolate Linghu Deguan. When that happens, he will not be able to do anything.”
Chief Cao was about to acknowledge when Yu He entered.
“Your Highness, this is bad. Prince Qin is gone.”
Concubine Yan looked stern.
Yu He spoke, “I acted according to the plan and arranged for someone to add something into Prince Qin’s food. However, when that internal attendant went to deliver the food, there was no one in the room.” What they added was not a poison that would kill him instantly but one that will make him lose his wits. Eating it for eight to ten days straight would turn him into a fool. In that manner, even without concrete evidence, a fool would not be able to inherit the throne.
“Did he not return to the palace or did he go missing after returning? Is he still in the palace?” Concubine Yan became anxious. For every day that Prince Qin remains well, it would make it more difficult for Prince Zhou to take the throne.
Yu He had already investigated. “The guards as well as the people in Prince Qin’s palace all saw Court Lady Fu carry him back into his palace. He should be in the royal palace.”
Chief Cao added, “Your Highness, do not be anxious. Perhaps Prince Qin just wants to play and has run out by himself. He has always been like this. He has a child’s temperament.”
Concubine Yan was thinking deeper. “Could it be that Fu Rou is playing tricks? Did they clearly see that the person she was carrying was Prince Qin?”
Yu He stuttered, “This...they had been ambushed before the news of the Emperor falling ill had spread through Chang’an. They would have been rushing back to report to the Emperor and would not have time to prepare. However, there is a possibility that Wei Song had alerted Fu Rou and she had hidden Prince Qin.”
Concubine Yan nodded. “As long as he is in the palace, there is nothing to be afraid of. Find him! Even if you have to dig up the ground, you have to find Prince Qin!”
On this night, there was chaos as the internal attendants searched the entire palace upside down.
At this time, there were villains who intentionally created trouble and made things difficult for the female officials from the Six Offices. Thankfully, Fu Rou and Sheng Chumu were prepared. They invited Princess Xinnan to calm the masses while they also activated the hundred soldiers to monitor the situation. Hence, although it was a daunting experience, no one suffered.
Fu Rou did not sleep the entire night as she walked out of her office and watched the colour of dawn. The female officials under her came to report that the search had ended. Although there was some friction, nothing major happened and everyone was safe.
Fu Rou was relieved as she walked to Concubine Yan’s palace. This was the good thing about power. Even if there was a limit and there was a possibility that her opponent controlled the entire situation, it was good that it has yet to happen. She could make use of this time and that was good enough.
Concubine Yan did not hide her disgust at Fu Rou. “Court Lady Fu, you look so haggard. Did you not sleep well last night?”
Fu Rou did not flatter. “Your Highness, likewise.”
Concubine Yan narrowed her eyes dangerously. “Prince Qin went with you to Daci’en Temple and you carried him back to his palace when you returned. This means that only you know best if Prince Qin had returned to the palace or not.”
Fu Rou was calm. “Everyone was present. Your Highness can go ahead and ask them, I have nothing to hide.”
Concubine Yan did not care about right and wrong and only relied on power to suppress others. When it came to dealing with someone treacherous, Fu Rou did not mind playing games and could lie without blinking.
Concubine Yan could not sense anything and criticised her. “We searched the palace the entire night, yet Prince Qin is nowhere to be found. Court Lady Fu, do you have nothing else to say?”
Fu Rou was frank. “I do. When Your Highness searched the entire palace last night, you missed out on one place.”
Concubine Yan raised her brows. “Where?”
Fu Rou spoke, “Ganlou Palace.”
Concubine Yan immediately felt guilty. “Impudent.”
Fu Rou was fearless. “His Majesty has been recuperating in the palace. Other than the people Chief Cao arranged to take care of the Emperor and the two imperial physicians you chose, no one is allowed to see the Emperor.”
Concubine Yan’s eyes were sharp. “That is because the Emperor needs to rest.”
“Prince Qin is a filial child and he will be thinking of the Emperor. Perhaps he has snuck into Ganlou Palace to meet the Emperor.” Fu Rou remained composed. “Your Highness, please allow me to enter Ganlou Palace to find Prince Qin.”
Concubine Yan was straightforward. “There is no need. If Prince Qin is in Ganlou Palace, the internal attendants serving His Majesty will report it to me.”
“I do not dare to be insistent.” Fu Rou’s tone changed. “However, because Prince Qin went missing, Your Highness searched the entire six offices and twenty-four departments. It shows how serious things are. If I am not worthy to meet the Emperor, there will be someone worthy enough.”
Concubine Yan narrowed her eyes at Fu Rou threateningly. Fu Rou was calm and unaffected as she bowed and took her leave.
Yan Zifang dismounted and let his horse eat. He walked towards the emerald lake in the forest. Fu Shui had arranged to meet him. However, he was no longer as gullible as before and would not meet and drink with him.
Ever since Fu Shui killed Lian Yan’er in front of him, he knew that Fu Shui was not someone he should hang around with. With no relationship, naturally there would be no loyalty. Fu Shui was also the reason that he had to lie to his best friend and make Sheng Chumu the scapegoat.
In the beginning, what he did was not only for himself but also for his brothers. However, as he saw Ma Haihu drown his sorrows everyday, with not a hint of the past energy he had, it made him perplexed if what he did was right.
Fu Shui was already waiting by the lake. He saw how cold Yan Zifang looked and went straight to the point. “Have you found the person?”
“No.” Yan Zifang answered simply.
“Hurry. Do anything to find him.” Fu Shui cut things short.
“Why are you so anxious to find this Shu Ziqi person?” Yan Zifang was curious.
“He is useful.” Fu Shui would not give him the true answer because Yan Zifang was just a dog running errands for them.
“When you have a use for people, you anxiously want to find them. But when they no longer have any use, you will just send them to their deaths with a cup of wine?” Yan Zifang laughed. He should have known that no matter how much he did, he was just a lackey to them.
Fu Shui laughed as well. “Are you still brooding over Lian Yan’er? The glory of ruling over everyone is exchanged with the sacrifices of many lives. If you still cannot understand, then I advise you to quit now and say goodbye to everything that you dream of.”
Yan Zifang did not hesitate but only warned in a low voice. “When things are done, you better make Ma Haihu a high-ranking official.”
Fu Shui nodded slowly. “I will do what I promise.”
The both of them did not realise that behind a tree nearby, Ma Haihu’s eyes had widened. Ma Haihu had failed to kill Sheng Chumu. Yet Sheng Chumu did not make things difficult for him and even told him what had happened.
Lian Yan’er was a spy for Yan Zifang and Fu Shui. She entered Duke Lu Residence for information and Sheng Chumu had long found out about it. Sheng Chumu then used her to pass on fake information. One day, Lian Yan’er met with Yan Zifang and Sheng Chumu sent someone to tail them. However, neither his man nor Lian Yan’er returned. He was afraid that things had gone wrong for them.
Initially, Ma Haihu did not believe him. However, he started to grow suspicious when he thought about it further. His leader was the one who informed him the two times that Lian Yan’er had disappeared. Now that he had personally overheard his leader and Fu Shui’s conversation, Ma Haihu finally believed that Fu Shui had killed Lian Yan’er and his leader had known about it.
He did not read much and was more or less illiterate. He could not speak of principles but all he knew was that his leader, who had always been loyal, was now going down Fu Shui’s evil path. As a brother, they only had this life. He had to get rid of Fu Shui!
Ma Haihu waited for Yan Zifang to leave before stealthily following Fu Shui back to the city. When he saw Fu Shui enter a house, he immediately jumped over the wall and snuck in. Unexpectedly, even before he could steady himself, he got attacked from all four directions and was stabbed to death.
Ma Haihu’s blood flowed all the way to the front of Fu Shui’s shoes.
“A woman had given up her life to help you fight for a bright future. You only had to wait to enjoy the blessings. But you chose to bring yourself to death’s door.”
Fu Shui suddenly saw a comb drop from Ma Haihu’s side. It was a poorly made comb. He could not help but pick it up as a lonely look flashed across his eyes. His tone remained cold. “Those with a heart are more likely to get hurt and lose their lives, just like you.” He casually threw the comb back on the corpse.
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