This chapter has been brought to you by me, Adnana, and Vivie.
- 县主 xianzhu: one rank lower than junzhu. Title usually given to a daughter of a junwang, or to a female of the Imperial Family or of a noble family, by the Emperor’s decree.
Chapter Sixty-Six: Life and Death
“You are still angry.” Yan Jin Qiu put a steaming bowl of soup in front of Hua Xi Wan and said with a warm smile, “The pigeon soup you like so much; it has been simmering on the fire for a long time. Taste it—it is very good.”
Hua Xi Wan glanced at him and silently drank. After she finished, she wiped the corner of her mouth and said with an arched eyebrow, “They say that Wang Ye is an elegant scholar. I think that Wang Ye is a very strong and large man.” She rubbed her waist and snorted.
“In front of others, I’m naturally a gentleman, but in front of Xi Wan, this gentleman will change into…” Yan Jin Qiu whispered by her ear, “… a hungry pervert.”
“Wang Ye, do those women in Jing who are in love with you know that you are not very proper?” Hua Xi Wan threw her handkerchief onto his hand and then stood. “Out of consideration for Wang Ye’s conduct, I should stay further away from Wang Ye.”
Knowing that he had gone overboard last night and in the morning, Yan Jin Qiu was not angry at being glared a few times by his beautiful wang fei. He went forward with a smile and allowed Hua Xi Wan to continue mocking him. When Hua Xi Wan’s anger eased slightly, he finally went forward and said, “Do not be angry, do not be angry. Didn’t you want to see the face changing act from the Shu Region? A few days ago, I had Mu Tong invite to the fu the best Shu Region company in Jing—how about I accompany you to see them change faces?”
Hua Xi Wan looked at the snow floating outside. She thought and then said, “No, let’s wait until the snow has stopped. Have them practice in the fu. If they are performing in the cold wind and snow, they will freeze on the stage.”
“Xi Wan is so kind, it really is my good fortune.”
Hearing this, Hua Xi Wan said with a smile at the corner of her lips, “It has nothing to do with kindness. I just do not like unrelated people enduring hardship for these insignificant matters. The common saying is that if people do not offend me, I will not offend them. If people offend me, I will make them pay.”
“This is true.” Yan Jin Qiu showed a slightly sincere smile on his face as his hands went around her waist. He said with a light laugh, “Xi Wan and I are born to be a pair, and no one can compare.”
Hua Xi Wan smiled but did not speak. In terms of personality, both she and Yan Jin Qiu were not kind people, but she usually was one who did not move unless the enemy moved. Yan Jin Qiu was more vicious. If the enemy did not move, he would force the other to move. However, it would be humorous to call them a heavenly match. The two of them were both people who loved themselves more. How could they love other people without any hesitation?
In her previous life, she had walked among the entertainment circles and seen many people getting together and then splitting apart. Those loves that started with true love would end with separation. Divorce, cheating, patronage—these were things that were frequently seen in the circle. That was also among the artists who had some fame, and not even in this era when it was legal for men to take concubines.
“I know that you do not believe me.” Yan Jin Qiu’s warm breath was against Hua Xi Wan’s neck. “But it does not matter. We will have a long time together.”
Hua Xi Wan lowered her eyes and the corners of her mouth curled.
The news that Lin Ping Junzhu and Xian Wang Fu had parted ways quickly spread through Jing. The people whom Lin Ping Junzhu had offended in the past had originally been wary of Xian Wang Fu’s power and did not dare to act. After hearing the news, some of the womenfolk could not maintain their composure and started to gossip behind her back.
“Who doesn’t know that this junzhu is usually high up and looks down on people? In the past, she frequently criticized Xian Wang Fei behind her back. The wang fei has never said anything about her. Oh, the wang fei has bad luck to have such a sister-in-law.”
“This is nothing. Didn’t this one make a fuss about getting married in the past? I heard that the family she married isn’t very acceptable. The Luo Family used her and did many bad things in Jiang City. That junma who was assassinated had a flirtation with a courtesan two years ago in Jiang City. He also created lyrics and songs for that courtesan. If the junzhu hadn’t made a fuss, maybe something would have happened between the junma and the courtesan.”
“Really, she is pitiful if you think about it. She thought that she married a good man. Who knew that the Luo Family would be like that. Luo Zhong Jing is also not one to remain faithful to one person. This makes her persistence a few years ago in Jing a joke.”
“Yes, she is both pitiful and hateful. It is a pity that she has given her heart away for nothing, but it is hateful that she could give up anything for this man.”
The women of Jing were emotional when they discussed the matter of Lin Ping Junzhu. But in reality, it was just because life was too boring and Lin Ping Junzhu was something that they could chat about.
Some felt that Lin Ping Junzhu was terrifying to act against someone beside whom she had slept. However, more people were laughing at her because those with eyes knew that Lin Ping Junzhu would not go to assassinate Lin Ping Junma. But so what? The Emperor wanted to save the Crown Prince, so the person who killed Luo Zhong Jing had to be Lin Ping Junzhu.
No matter what these people thought of Lin Ping Junzhu, many people in the Imperial House felt distressed and sad as well. Today, Lin Ping Junzhu was pushed out for the Crown Prince. In the future, who else would become the Crown Prince’s shield?
The Crown Prince was so unwise, but he was the heir to the country. The future of their Great Zhao Dynasty was in danger.
At court, the junior justice of the Judicial Office was scolded harshly by the Emperor. Ever since the day when the Crown Prince was sent to the Heavenly Prison, almost every day, the members of the Judicial Office would be picked upon by the Emperor for a scolding. The officials at court were used to it.
“There is no need to discuss this matter further. Lin Ping Junzhu hired an assassin to kill Junma; this action is malicious!” Qilong Emperor waved his hand and the case of Luo Zhong Jing was settled.
The entire court was silent. The officials who were less brave buried their heads, and some of the Imperial House members had ugly expressions.
“Emperor, this case has many suspicious places. We cannot be so rash in…”
“Shut your mouth!” Qilong Emperor interrupted Zhang Hou’s words and looked coldly at him. He said, “The one who said that Lin Ping Junzhu was suspicious was you, and now the one saying that there are many suspicious parts in the case is also you. Zhen moved you to the Judicial Office to investigate cases, not for you to waver. If it wasn’t Lin Ping Junzhu who hired the assassin, tell me, who was it?”
Zhang Hou opened his mouth. Looking at the Emperor who was sitting with a menacing aura on the dragon throne, he helplessly closed his mouth and touched his head to the ground. He did not speak further.
The members of the Imperial Family looked at Xian Wang who was standing in the first row on the left and seemed to want to see what his attitude was.
“Emperor.” Yan Jin Qiu stepped forward with his left leg and made a bow. “This subject thinks that the sister felt great love for Junma—how could she bear to harm him?”
“Xian Wang, you are not correct. There are many women in the world who can do some things that are not understandable when their love turns to hatred.” Count Jing Ping objected. “Everyone knows what actions Lin Ping Junzhu made in the past in order to marry Luo Junma. When she found that Luo Zhong Jing was unfaithful to her, it is understandable if she wanted to murder him.”
The officials present were speechless when they heard this. If this kind of reasoning could stand, many men in Jing would not be alive. Not to speak of anyone else, just Count Jing Ping himself. His original wife came from the Zhang Clan and was a gentle and generous woman. However, he had a close relationship with Chen shi who was already married. After Zhang shi passed away due to sickness, he immediately had Chen shi divorce her husband and then married Chen shi.
Their Great Zhao Dynasty was not as conservative as the previous dynasty, but the conduct of Count Jing Ping was too much.
“I heard long ago that Zhang shi was in love with Count, filial to the elders, and loving to the children,” Yan Jin Qiu said with a smile. “Is this true?”
Count Jing Ping’s face flushed. He knew that what he had done in the past was not good, and when Yan Jin Qiu mentioned this, he could not find the words to object.
“Count, you are standing here, and this is proof that it is rare for a person to take someone’s life because love turned to hatred.” Yan Jin Qiu raised his hands towards the dragon throne. “Please, Emperor, investigate.”
Someone in the court laughed but they did not laugh very clearly. So Count Jing Ping did not know who was laughing at him. He could only shrink back with a red face and red ears. He did not dare to speak.
“Zhen knows that Virtuous Nephew is a generous and honest person, but this matter is not child’s play. Lin Ping Junzhu has committed such a heinous act, and zhen has to punish her.” Qilong Emperor knew that this was unfair to the Xian Wang Family so he said, “However, because Luo Zhong Jing was disrespectful to the Imperial House, and his conduct unacceptable, zhen will pardon Lin Ping Junzhu’s death sentence, and take away her rank as junzhu to become xianzhu. She will have a punishment of fifteen strikes with the staff, will be fined five thousand taels of silver, and will not receive her allowance for three years. In the future, she will not be allowed to leave Jing.”
Yan Jin Qiu slowly knelt. “Thanks, Emperor, for the grace.”
This punishment wasn’t heavy. However, a xianzhu in Jing who had been punished by the Emperor and had the crime of killing her husband on her head didn’t have any face left in the eyes of Jing. Until death, she would not be able to erase this blemish.
Everyone present knew that if Xian Wang had not come out, this Lin Ping Junzhu would have been worse off. Maybe, she wouldn’t even be able to keep a title of xianzhu. Then her children would be ones to be pitied.
When they thought of the rumors of Lin Ping Junzhu causing a great ruckus in Xian Wang Fu, many major officials sighed inside. This Xian Wang was very good, but he just did not have good relatives. Even his own sister dragged him down.
After the court session ended, some of the people from the Imperial House were around Yan Jin Qiu and wanted to comfort him but did not know how to speak. Everyone knew that Lin Ping Junzhu had nothing to do with the assassination of Luo Zhong Jing. But since the Emperor was using her in place of the Crown Prince, what could clansmen like them who seemed noble but did not have any real power do?
It was very kind for Xian Wang to speak up for Lin Ping Xianzhu at this time. If Lin Ping Xianzhu had not persisted in wanting to marry into the Luo Family, this would not have happened.
The Imperial Will could not be resisted, the Heavenly Will could not be resisted.
“Zi Ling, at court today, you have done your best about Lin Ping Xianzhu. In the future, do not mention this in case you enrage His Majesty and have yourself also fall in.” Xu Wang combed his grey beard and walked next to Yan Jin Qiu. He said with a smile, “The winter is getting cold this year. This old man is advanced in years and should send a memo to rest at home due to sickness.”
When he said this, Xu Wang had a rosy face, and his eyes were alert. He didn’t seem sick at all.
Yan Jin Qiu bowed and said, “You are too serious; you are the backbone of the court. If you are sick, wouldn’t the Emperor lose a strong assistant?”
“When a person is old, they should recognize it.” Xu Wang laughed and then turned to look back at the golden throne room. “Those who are old cannot keep above the surface of these muddied waters. This old man’s eldest di son is a few years older than you but of a simple personality. In the future, I’ll have him follow you around to learn your gentlemanly conduct, so that he will not look like a dullard.”
“Shizi is of a steady conduct, and he is not dull.” The smile at Yan Jin Qiu’s lips grew more evident. “It will be the two of us who will mutually improve.”
“En, young people should learn.” Xu Wang nodded and left as he caressed his beard. The steps were so light and fast he really did not seem weak.
After Luo Zhong Jing’s case was finished, Qilong Emperor resisted the pressure from the Imperial Clan and released the Crown Prince from the Heavenly Prison. However, he was not sent back to his Crown Prince Fu to rest but was held under house arrest in Zhu Que Palace to express that the Emperor did not have any intentions of providing special treatment.
However, this was just acting for people to see. There was a world of difference between the Heavenly Prison and Zhu Que Palace. Other than the Crown Prince being unable to move around freely in the palace, his attire and food were just the same as normal. When he heard he finally had a child, he was so happy he ate half a bowl more of rice.
Maybe it was because he ate that half bowl of rice after he came out of the Heavenly Prison, his stomach felt pained in the night. He went to the privy multiple times in the night. When the palace attendants reported to the Empress, the Empress had the people summon the grand doctors.
While the Crown Prince was not allowed to go out of the Zhu Que Palace, it was not forbidden for people to come in. So the Empress easily managed to see the Crown Prince. Seeing the Crown Prince who had gained weight, the Empress’ tears were forced back. Just as she sat down, the Crown Prince pressed his stomach and went to the privy.
After the Crown Prince had gone back and forth a few times, the grand doctor finally arrived. After the use of silver needles to pierce some points on the Crown Prince’s body, the diarrhea finally halted.
“Your Highness, this subject used the needles to stop the diarrhea, but this is only effective for a time. You must drink the medicine.” After the grand doctor finished making a list, he stood and was going to get medicine for the Crown Prince.
“Wait a moment.” The Empress called the grand doctor. After her expression changed a few times, she said in a grave voice, “Be careful when you get the medicine—have the Crown Prince recover as soon as possible.”
“Yes.” The grand doctor was slightly puzzled. Was it really so difficult for the Empress to say these words?
However, he was long used to the complex minds of the people of the inner palace. The grand doctor did not even think when he turned and left Zhu Que Palace.
“Mother-Empress, what is it?” The Crown Prince was dispirited as he lay on the bed. He felt that the Empress’ gaze when she looked at him wasn’t right. He couldn’t help but ask, “Has something happened?”
“Nothing.” The Empress tucked the blanket in. “The Crown Princess is pregnant now. Ben gong worries for you being alone in the palace and will prepare Chen liangdi to come to Zhu Que Palace to serve you. What do you think?”
“Chen liangdi is dull—why have her come?” The Crown Prince disliked the dullness of Chen liangdi and said with a creased brow, “Why don’t you have Zhao liangdi come? She is interesting.”
“Ben gong is having her come to take care of your health, not to play with you.” The Empress sighed and then said, “Right now, the number of eyes on you is unknown, so bear it for now. After this matter passes, then you can think about other things. If you are not willing to have Chen liangdi come, then have a taijian serve you.”
The hard life of the Heavenly Prison had caused the Crown Prince to be more docile, so after the Empress said this, he did not argue. He silently agreed. While he did not like the lack of spirit in Chen liangdi, it was better to have something than nothing.
“Mother-Empress, please spend more effort on the Crown Princess. It would be good if it is a son.” Thinking that he will have children, the Crown Prince said in a good mood, “What did Father-Emperor say?”
“Your father-emperor is very happy.” The Empress moved her eyes away to not look at the Crown Prince. She said in a flat tone, “There are palace guards in the Crown Prince Fu. The female attendants serving inside are all people from the palace. You do not need to worry.”
The Crown Prince relaxed. “It seems that Father-Emperor places great importance on this child. This means that he does not dislike me.”
“You are still ill; rest early.” The Empress stood. “Ben gong should return.”
The Crown Prince felt that the Empress was slightly strange, but he did not ask questions. He flipped over and slept. After his stay for a while in the Heavenly Prison, it was the silkworm blankets of the palace that were the most comfortable.
The drama of Jing ended with Lin Ping Junzhu becoming Lin Ping Xianzhu. The assassination of Luo Zhong Jing was put down like this. The Luo Family members who had rushed to Jing were discontent, but they could only let it go. In Jiang City, they had relied on the power of Lin Ping Junzhu to dominate Jiang City. Now that Luo Zhong Jing was dead and Lin Ping Xianzhu was the culprit, what could they say? What did they dare to say?
Should they say that the Emperor’s punishment was too light, or that Luo Zhong Jing had died and there was injustice?
The clap of thunder or the rain and dew, punishment or favor—all was by the grace of the Emperor. The little Luo Family did not even have a place in the enormous Jing. How could they have the courage to offend the nobility of Jing?
In the end, what they received was a jar of ash and some insignificant objects. They didn’t even see the face of the Emperor before they were sent out of the city. As for Luo Zhong Jing’s son and daughter, they did not dare to ask for them. Even if Yan Jin Ling was not a junzhu, she was still a xianzhu. Did they dare ask her about the Luo Family children?
It was normal for the mother to raise the children now that Luo Zhong Jing was dead. What could the Luo Family say?
“Lin Ping Xianzhu?” Hua Xi Wan looked strangely at Yan Jin Qiu. “His Majesty really… pushed this onto her?”
This was too obvious. Probably half of the people in Jing would not believe this result. Qilong Emperor’s actions were cooling off the hearts of the people.
One had to feel sympathy. Qilong Emperor did not even act out the full set; he really did not think about other people.
“I tried my best, and it was only to keep the title of a xianzhu for her.” Yan Jin Qiu drank a sip of hot tea and spoke slowly. “The fu does not have to receive her if she comes in the future. There isn’t much left between us siblings except her hatred of me.”
Hua Xi Wan played with the jade comb in her hand and did not speak.
A short while later, she heard Mu Tong come in to report that the Crown Prince was heavily ill.
“Didn’t the Crown Prince just come out of the Heavenly Prison yesterday? How come his illness increased in the span of one night?” Hua Xi Wan looked in puzzlement at Mu Tong. Was it because he was too used to living in the Heavenly Prison and wasn’t used to it when he moved back to the grand and comfortable palace?
“Yesterday at night, the Crown Prince had diarrhea that could not be stopped. After the grand doctor came, everything was fine. However, after the morning passed today, the Crown Prince suddenly spat blood and he is having a fever.” Mu Tong said worriedly, “His Majesty has already sent his Imperial Doctor whom he normally uses. Supposedly, the situation is very serious. The Empress has already knelt in the Buddha hall to pray.”
Why did the signs seem to appear as though it was poison?
However, for someone like the Crown Prince who never tried to accumulate good will, was prayer actually effective? If the Great Zhao Dynasty really had someone like this as Emperor, it would be better if he was… She realized that she was thinking too much. Hua Xi Wan coughed dryly and turned to look at Yan Jin Qiu. “Jin Qiu, this matter…”
“The Crown Prince is the heir to the country. He is seriously ill and we cannot sit still. Let us make a visit to the palace.” Yan Jin Qiu looked at the sky outside and said, “It is still early and we will not be late if we change first.”
Translated, this was—we will go slowly, and it was not good to get there early?
Some things could not be said properly; this was a bad habit of the Imperial Family and prestigious families. If this continued, she would be infected.
When visiting for an illness, one had to wear light colors that were not too somber. Otherwise, if nothing had happened to the person at this time yet you were dressed somberly, wasn’t that cursing the other to die early?
After choosing a blue rabbit fur palace robe and several pieces of jewelry to put on, Hua Xi Wan joined Yan Jin Qiu onto the carriage. There were basins of coal in the carriage, so even though the wind flapped outside, she did not feel cold.
“I always feel that it is best to lie in bed under the blankets in wintry wind like this.” Hua Xi Wan raised the curtain to look outside. She was alarmed by the bone-aching cold wind and took her hand back. “Curled up in bed, drinking a fragrant tea, reading some novels—that is the best experience.”
“Did you read the novels that I had the servants deliver to you a few days ago?” Yan Jin Qiu gripped her hand in his. “If you do not like them, I will help you find more interesting ones.”
“Some are acceptable. In any case, they are used to while away the time. I do not have high standards.” Hua Xi Wan pulled on her hand yet wasn’t able to pull her hand away. So she leaned her entire body on Yan Jin Qiu and then said lightly, “Someone said to me that the Crown Princess’ pregnancy is very suspicious. Do you think…”
Yan Jin Qiu put his other hand around her shoulder and said in a calm tone, “The Crown Prince is infertile—how can he have children?”
Hearing this, Hua Xi Wan had the thought that her expectation had been right. Her brow creased. “Then the Crown Princess is faking a pregnancy to get the Crown Prince out?”
“The pregnancy is true, but the child is not the Crown Prince’s.” Yan Jin Qiu smiled. “The Empress most likely also knows.”
“Since the Empress knows…” Hua Xi Wan’s expression suddenly changed. Was the matter as she had guessed? “Is, this child is…”
This really challenged her morals. She felt she was unable to speak of it.
Yan Jin Qiu looked with a sarcastic smile at her and drawled, “What?”
Hua Xi Wan raised an eyebrow. “What is Wang Ye thinking? I didn’t say anything at all.”
“I did not ask about anything.” Yan Jin Qiu pressed his forehead to hers and laughed. “Xi Wan knows me.”
“Tsk.” Hua Xi Wan wanted to say to him, Don’t think too much, but she did not say it.
She would be generous and allow this man to be self-satisfied.
At this time, the grand doctors filled the yard outside Zhu Que Palace as they knelt. Some of the older grand doctors could not tolerate the cold that came when the snow melted and permeated their legs, and they fainted.
But even when they fell down unconscious, no one dared to help them up. They had to let these old grand doctors lie on the snow. As to whether they would be able to survive, it depended on themselves.
When Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu arrived together, they saw four or so grand doctors unconscious in the snow and several others kneeling beside them. She paused slightly in her steps and then sighed lightly.
Yan Jin Qiu turned to glance at her and held her hand, saying, “Let’s go.”
In the imperial palace, they could not be the master of other people’s life and death.
Translator Ramblings: A demotion to Lin Ping Xianzhu is major because most of the time, it means a loss of income from the court and land which came with her title. Becoming a commoner would mean that she would lose all of her income that comes from the court.