The palace staff cowered; no one dared to utter another word. There were people who wanted to perform an assassination or stir up trouble, but after seeing Nan Ruohuai’s ruthlessness and Qianye’s overwhelming power, they knew that any reckless action would only be throwing away more lives.
Those with experience thought one level deeper. Qianye was the actual mastermind behind everything, so what was the point of killing Nan Ruohuai? The man would just drag another prince or princess onto the throne and solidify his influence once more. If he was too annoyed, he could simply kill off the entire royal family and drag some random person onto the throne, claiming that he was the late king’s illegitimate son. Who could say anything?
Besides, internal strife was normal for Zheng, and everyone in the palace had seen their fair share of it.
Someone wanted to clean up the corpses, but Nan Ruohuai stopped them. “Just leave it like that! I want everyone to see what happens to those who oppose this king!”
That attendant was half-buried in the hard limestone floor, his upper body perfectly intact. This went to show just how extraordinary the assailant’s technique was. This was the number one expert in the palace! It could be assumed that those with untoward thoughts wouldn’t dare act recklessly anymore.
After giving out the orders, Nan Ruohuai ignored his deathly pale mother and sisters to attend to Qianye. “Uncle Sire, please follow me!”
Qianye nodded indifferently and followed Nan Ruohuai around the screen. They first arrived at the King’s chambers, adjacent to the queen’s, currently occupied by Queen Mother Shu.
Qianye found this arrangement rather odd. Did Nan Ruohuai have a wife? The information Song Lun had given him didn’t state anything of that sort, so he simply tossed the thought to the side. The two palace chambers weren’t big, but there were courtyards and flower gardens decorated in tasteless extravagance.
After viewing these palaces in passing, Nan Ruohuai led Qianye to a small courtyard. The sign on the gates read: Shifting Fragrance Palace. The board was made of valuable material and the craftsmanship was exquisite, but the writing was barely passable. Judging from the inscription, it was likely the work of one of the previous monarchs.
Seeing that the gate was tightly closed, Nan Ruohuai turned livid. He charged over and kicked the doors into pieces, producing a storm of splinters and a painful cry from the courtyard.
Nan Ruohuai walked in with large strides and saw an attendant girl, badly injured and her face covered in blood. A kick from someone of his strength wasn’t something an ordinary person could withstand.
Nan Ruohuai glared at the palace attendant. “You blind thing! Locking the door when this king is returning to the palace!? Men, drag this slut and throw her into the immersed prison!”
Two attendants arrived and the girl was dragged off, sobbing and crying mournfully.
A woman, seemingly in her thirties, appeared from the main building at this point. Calm and aloof, she was the classic example of an icy beauty. It was just that one could see faint traces of age in her facial features.
There were clear signs of anger in her eyes, but she forced out a smile. “So it’s His Excellency the Thirty-First. Why are you so angry today? Must you take it out on my ignorant servant?”
“Oh my, I should be calling you Your Majesty now. It’s a habit.”
Nan Ruohuai nodded. “You’re a smart person, how can it be out of habit? Since you’re so unwilling, why not just call me by name? It’s just an address, anyhow.”
The woman bit her lower lips. “I understand my mistake, please don’t take it to heart, Your Majesty.”
Nan Ruohuai’s expression darkened. “Since you know your mistake, how should you be addressing yourself?”
“... This consort.”
“That’s more like it, how should you perform your greetings when you see me?”
The woman's eyes became moist as she bent her knees and knelt lightly on the ground, teardrops falling into the dust as she lowered her head.
Finally satisfied, Nan Ruohuai said to his inner attendant, “Throw that girl into the banishment palace, no need for the dungeon.”
The woman forced herself to speak through her tears. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
Nan Ruohuai turned to Qianye and said, “This is the royal consort, titled Xue, and father’s favorite. We normally call her Aunt Xue. She isn’t really impressed by us, though, and if not for the circumstances, she probably won’t even know who the thirty-first prince is.”
Nan Ruohuai said to Consort Xue, “Get up.” Then, he brought Qianye into the bedroom without consulting anyone. Her face went pale as she watched the two marching figures, and it took all she had to not break down in tears.
Nan Ruohuai didn’t stay too long in the flower garden and instead went into the bed-chambers, fiddling with the small decorative items along the way. He then opened a cabinet, which by some unlucky coincidence or otherwise, was full of ladies’ undergarments. Nan Ruohuai’s expression remained unchanged as he picked one up and studied it closely.
Consort Xue, who had just followed them in, went livid, trembling all over as she stood there at a loss.
Nan Ruohuai tossed away the undershirt and said, “What do you think? Do you want to spend the night here?”
Qianye stood at the doorway with his hands behind his back, indifferent and expressionless as he shook his head.
“Okay, let’s go to another place then. There are four royal consorts in the palace.”
Having seen the guests off, Consort Xue was just heaving a sigh of relief when Nan Ruohuai turned back at the gate and glared at her, causing her to go pale.
Along the way, they met over a dozen concubines in addition to the four consorts. The palace wasn’t big and the rear palace was even smaller. Considering how the rear flower garden was also taking up space, the four consorts’ palaces were actually just small courtyards despite their impressive names. There was a main building with three rooms in each compound and two side rooms for attendants to live in, and the remaining space was filled with flowerbeds, tables, and chairs.
If even the four royal consorts lived in such abodes, there was no need to talk about the other concubines. The ones with higher status would live in pairs, while the ones with lower status would live four to a courtyard.
With Consort Xue’s example in place, they never went through the awkwardness of being locked out in other places. The consorts and concubines would receive them with smiles; they were so enthusiastic that they looked more like store ladies welcoming customers than royal concubines.
Having finished the tour, Qianye concluded that the four royal consorts were indeed a bit more good looking than Queen Mother Shu, and the other concubines were all inferior. It would seem that the old King of Zheng’s harem was ranked according to his preferences in addition to their backgrounds. But these women were all cooped up in such a small place, like chickens in a cage, so they had nothing better to do than fight amongst themselves.
With how small the rear palace was, the tour was fairly short even if they took the time to observe every place. Qianye said to Nan Ruohuai, “Let’s go back to the study to talk.”
Since Qianye had no interest in staying in the rear palace, Nan Ruohuai didn’t insist on it, either. He simply led Qianye to the front palace study. The latter sat down in the big chair with Nan Ruohuai standing respectfully at his side.
Qianye said jokingly, “Aren’t you afraid of leaving a bad name by offering up the harem?”
Nan Ruohuai replied, “You were the one who gave me whatever I have now, so whatever you want in Zheng is yours. If not for you, who would even know who the thirty-first prince is? How could it be my turn to stand here? What is the royal harem compared to your great favor?”
Qianye didn’t comment. “How is your father?”
“We still haven’t found him. The second brother worked together with several royal siblings to move him away from the palace. We still don’t know where they’re hiding him. It won’t be easy to get such a big secret out of the servants, we’ll need to target the leaders. My guess is that he’s still in the Royal Capital.
Qianye was surprised. “Did they hide the king because I was challenging the Royal Tutor?”
Nan Ruohuai started laughing. “You think too highly of them! There’s no way my brothers would be so kind! I’ve asked my father's close attendants, father hasn’t been in the palace since a month ago. He has been in a delirious state all this time. Meanwhile, my second brother began acting as regent with the Royal Tutor’s support, gaining fame and power in court. These people were afraid father would wake up and take over the government again! What would they do if he appointed another prince as the crown heir? They couldn’t rebel, could they? Unlike me, these people do care about what the history books will say about them.”
Qianye was a bit surprised. “Do you mean they’ll keep him under house arrest if your father remains alive?”
Since he was already being detained, the old King Zheng’s fate was already sealed. He might die naturally if he didn’t recover from the disease, but he might just “pass away naturally” if he were to recover.
At this point, Qianye gained a new understanding of Zheng as a nation. Nan Hua could be considered one of the better-natured ones.
“How do you plan to handle this matter?”
Nan Ruohuai gave it some thought. “Naturally, I’ll have to find my father first. I’ll have to seal off the Royal Capital and perform a thorough search. I’m guessing they will kill father in their desperation and try to blame it on me. Even so, I cannot let his corpse fall into their hands.”
“True, I guess. What then? Several important cities in the nation are still in your brothers’ hands. What do you plan to do?”
Nan Ruohuai appeared rather confident. "I now control most of the Royal Guard, and the city guard has also announced their loyalty. Our Zheng’s Royal Guard has always been the best elite force in the country. With them under my control, it’ll be fairly easy to destroy my other brothers. Just leave this matter to me, you don’t need to bother.”
Qianye smiled indifferently. “That means you plan to quell and pacify Zheng on your own?”
Nan Ruohuai retracted his high spirits and said, “Didn’t you want me to accomplish certain things as the King of Zheng?”
Qianye said calmly, “It’s naturally good if that’s what you want. It’s getting late, let’s discuss tomorrow.”
Nan Ruohuai said, “Shall I arrange a place for you to rest in the rear palace?”
Qianye shook his head. “No need, I’ll go back to the warship. I also have some things to discuss with Song Lun and the others.”
A flash of disappointment appeared in Nan Ruohuai’s eyes, but he saw Qianye off respectfully and watched him drive away before going back.
After returning to the study, he headed over to one of the side chairs out of habit. Only when his bottom was halfway toward the chair did he remember that something wasn’t quite right and moved to the big chair Qianye was sitting before. He plopped down so hard that it looked like he fell into the seat.
An old attendant who was waiting in the room moved closer and said mysteriously, “Your Majesty, it’s quite a pity he’s not willing to stay.”
Nan Ruohuai said, puzzled, “Indeed.”
The old attendant whispered, “There’s a secret formula passed down from the royal ancestors, a poison that has no taste or smell. Nothing happens when first taking it, but it acts up an hour later with a force so potent that even those with powerful cultivation won’t last longer than thirty minutes.”
Nan Ruohuai’s heart started beating faster and his mouth became dry. “T-This medicine…”
“This medicine has a special characteristic; the longer it’s stored, the more potent it is. There’s a bottle in the palace that’s been kept for fifty years!”
“Your Majesty has already grasped power and gained the loyalty of the Royal Guard. Everything has been settled and no other changes can happen. Since that’s the case, why would you be content with all these restraints?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
TL: Legion ED: Moxie