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Chapter Sixty-Nine: Critically Ill
The twenty-eighth year of Qilong was fated to have a shadow cast over it by the poisoning of the Crown Prince. The nobles who were qualified to attend the banquet were very low-key. They tried their best to have the carriages they rode in and the clothing they wore to not break protocol. However, because the Crown Princess was pregnant and the Emperor was placing great importance on the unborn imperial grandson, they could not be dressed too somberly. If they did so, the Emperor would feel they were bringing bad energies. It was very difficult for these relatives of the Imperial Family.
The carriages gradually travelled to the imperial palace. They examined each other and smiled conspiratorially. With respectful expressions, they walked towards the great hall of the banquet.
The palace attendants and taijian who were in Chao Yang Hall had tense nerves, afraid they would offend a noble personage. The palace had not been peaceful recently, so every one of them shrunk back and pretended to be a quail. It would not be profitable if they lost their lives.
Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu walked together. There were taijian who were working hard on sweeping the snow that had accumulated on the paths, but the snow had not stopped at all. The slate stones that they walked on were still slightly wet and slippery. Yan Jin Qiu took the opportunity to hold Hua Xi Wan’s hand as they walked forward, and completely forgot she had her maids.
Not far behind the two of them were Xu Wang Shizi and Shizi Fei. Xu Wang said to the shizi fei, “I really had never expected Zi Ling to have this side to him.” Among the Imperial House members, the relationship he had with his shizi fei was already very good. However, compared to the sweet interactions between Xian Wang and Xian Wang Fei, they were lacking.
Shizi Fei had a very good impression of Hua Xi Wan. Hearing this, she said, “If I was a man, and able to marry such a woman, I would protect her as well.”
Xu Wang Shizi did not agree. Xian Wang Fei was beautiful, but in his mind, the woman beside him was the best. “No matter how beautiful she is, it is not as good as one who understands me.”
Shizi Fei blushed slightly and said with a lowered head, “For Xian Wang, Xian Wang Fei is the one who knows him the best.” Her hand was being held in a warm hand. Her face flushed even more, but she did not break free.
Ning Wang was the leader of those who supported the Crown Prince. Because of the Crown Prince’s increasingly unreliable conduct the past half year, he was so panicked he had sores on his lips. He looked at Xu Wang Shizi and Xian Wang ahead of him. Then he thought of his weak eldest son and his prodigal shizi. He instantly felt depressed. They were all young people, but why was the difference so great?
Also, the Crown Prince’s group was becoming even more disorganized in their conduct. If the present Emperor had even one more son, he would immediately jump off the Crown Prince’s boat, and it wouldn’t be like this. It wasn’t just awkward; there was even the possibility he would not be able to maintain the glory he had now.
Presently, the Crown Prince was weak because of being poisoned, and the gender of the child whom the Crown Princess was carrying was unknown. Sheng Junwang had many supporters in Jing. Xu Wang Fu seemed to be observing from the side and was loyal just to the Emperor, but that was on the surface. Xian Wang did not seem to have made any step out of bounds, but the womenfolk in Jing had a high opinion of him. He also had a pretty good reputation among the scholars, and had in-laws that was stronger than the ones of the other young shizi and wang. It would be all right if he did not have the intentions, but if he did, then he would be a strong enemy.
Fortunately, the present dynasty did not have states like the previous dynasty, with the wangs unable to come to Jing without any summons. They only had titles but no land. This ended the possibility that these imperials sons would gather enemies in their own lands, but what was unavoidable was these imperial sons forming alliances in Jing. There was no perfect matter in this world.
If the Crown Prince had been just the tiniest bit better, he would not have turned such a good situation into such a mess. In the previous dynasties, there had been emperors who only had one son. There were crown princes who had been hard-working, and also ones who stayed in the inner palace and would only hold court once every year. However, all of them were able to hold onto the throne because there were no enemies around who were aiming for it.
However, the situation right now was not the same. Sheng Junwang had ambitions, but the previous emperor had been afraid the current emperor would harm his brothers. Consequently, the previous emperor had bestowed golden scrolls to Sheng Wang and Xian Wang, two of the sons whom he had liked the most. He had also had the previous emperor swear in front of many officials that he would take care of his brothers and their descendants. So right now, while Sheng Junwang and Xian Wang were thorns in the heart of the present emperor, they could not be moved easily.
He really didn’t know what the previous emperor had been thinking at the time. Hadn’t he ever worried that Sheng Wang and Xian Wang would rebel? Fortunately, Sheng Wang and Xian Wang had passed away early. Otherwise, it would be hard to say what the present situation would be like.
As to why these two wang ye were so short-lived—maybe it was a coincidence?
“In the palace, what etiquette is shown by holding hands like this?” Ning Wang Fei’s brow furrowed as she said, “This Xian Wang and Xu Wang Shizi are very inattentive.” She was the second wife of Ning Wang, but she had a good relationship with him. Her son was also the shizi, so she always felt confident. Ever since she had learned that people frequently compared Sheng Junwang, Xian Wang and Xu Wang Shizi to her own son, she was not happy whenever she saw these people.
“Young people have good relationships; there is nothing wrong with being close.” Ning Wang felt slight regret. If his son could be similar to one of them, he would not have to expend so much effort all the time paving the path for his son. No matter how unfavored he had been when the previous emperor had been alive, when the present emperor ascended the throne, he became the wang ye of whom the Emperor was unwary because of his unfavored status and had survived until now. It was a pity that his son was not very good, so that he had to support the Crown Prince. The hope was that the Crown Prince would take care of his descendants based on his service of supporting the Crown Prince to the throne.
Hearing this, Ning Wang Fei instantly smiled and said, “Wang Ye is right.” She had managed to force away the son of the first wife and obtain for her own son the title of shizi because she could make Ning Wang happy. Naturally, she would not go against his wishes.
Ning Wang was very satisfied with her perceptiveness. His expression improved, and he put his hands behind his back as he continued to walk.
When Hua Xi Wan walked into the inner hall, she felt the air was much warmer. She took off the fox fur cape she was wearing and handed it to Bai Xia behind her. Holding Yan Jin Qiu’s hand, she sat down at their table. There were tea pastries and dried fruit placed on the table. There were several musicians who were playing happy music. While not everyone had arrived, the entire hall was filled with a happy atmosphere.
Sheng Junwang and his wife were sitting at the table to the right of them, and on their left, it was Ning Wang and his wife. Both sides were not people easy to deal with. Hua Xi Wan was especially careful when she spoke, worried that she would unconsciously fall into the verbal traps of other people.
This was why she had been initially unwilling to marry into the Imperial Family. A minor banquet every three days, a major banquet every five days—she had to even consider her words before speaking. How much effort this took! Hua Xi Wan propped her cheek in her hand and played with two kumquats. She remained quiet as she listened to Yan Jin Qiu and Yan Bo Yi talk.
“Ben wang cannot compare to Junwang. I only draw and read at home. It will be too difficult for ben wang to go to the ministries to work.” Yan Jin Qiu raised a wine cup at Yan Bo Yi. “That should be avoided.”
Hua Xi Wan tilted her head to look in the direction of Sheng Junwang. She remembered a few months ago, Yan Jin Qiu was still calling Sheng Junwang Tang brother. Now, it had become junwang. It seemed that the conflict between the two of them was gradually coming into the open.
Hadn’t Qilong Emperor wanted to see this when he had elevated Yan Jin Qiu’s title? Yan Jin Qiu sounded polite in his words, but he seemed to imply that he was a qinwang while the other was just a junwang. With Yan Jin Qiu’s usual astuteness, how could he say such shallow and straightforward words?
Rather than saying he was making things difficult for Yan Bo Yi, it was better to say that he was doing something that would satisfy Qilong Emperor.
“Xian Wang is too polite. You have outstanding talent—what can you not accomplish? You are just being humble.” Sheng Junwang still looked dignified as usual. “I just have a little bit of talent to display in front of an expert; how can this compare to Xian Wang’s abilities?”
When he finished saying this, he suddenly saw a golden red kumquat roll down Yan Jin Qiu’s table. It rolled next to his foot before it stopped. The conversation between them immediately stopped.
“Naughty.” Yan Jin Qiu smiled at Hua Xi Wan and peeled a mandarin for her. Then he took the handkerchief Mu Tong handed over to wipe his hand. He said, “I know you do not like kumquats. Taste this.”
Yan Bo Yi looked at the kumquat next to his foot. With slightly lowered eyes, he said, “Wang Ye treats Wang Fei so well.”
“She is someone who will accompany ben wang for a lifetime. If ben wang isn’t good to her, who should ben wang be good to?” Yan Jin Qiu handed his used handkerchief to Mu Tong. Mu Tong bowed as he received it, and then went down to the ground with a bent back to pick up the kumquat at Yan Bo Yi’s foot before he moved to the side soundlessly.
Hua Xi Wan peeled a slice of the mandarin to put in her mouth. Was Yan Jin Qiu trying to disrupt the relationship between Sheng Junwang and Hou shi? She peeked over and only saw Hou shi’s dignified smile. She could not guess what the other was thinking.
Just as she was preparing to move her gaze, Sheng Junwang suddenly turned his head. Their gazes met. Hua Xi Wan casually smiled politely at him and then buried her head to continue to eat mandarins.
Before entering the palace, she and Yan Jin Qiu had eaten a bowl of noodles. For palace banquets like this, people came for the business, but it would be difficult to have a good meal. In such cold days, what kind of hot food would they get to eat?
It was just a crowd of upper-level people wearing masks for people who were not in the know.
Sheng Junwang did not respond to this and just smiled. He raised his wine cup and slowly sipped. No matter who looked, he seemed to be a dignified gentleman. But in Hua Xi Wan’s eyes, no matter how gentlemanly he appeared, he was still low.
As a member of the Imperial Family, it was true that one could not be too emotional. But Yan Bo Yi’s conduct was truly too cold. Even if Hou shi could not get pregnant, she had given so much for him. While she could not ask for him to not have any other women, at least he should have waited for her to recover before they discussed this matter.
An emperor could be cold, but he could not be a person without any benevolence. Otherwise, it was a calamity to the people. Therefore, in her view, Yan Bo Yi was not the best choice to be emperor. If a person like this succeeded the throne, he would be someone who could sacrifice anyone around him for his benefit.
In about half an hour, almost everyone had arrived. Just as everyone was waiting for the imperial couple and the Empress Dowager to arrive, the chief taijian steward Ma gonggong suddenly came to the hall with a grave face and announced Qilong Emperor’s orders.
“The Emperor has spoken, the Crown Prince is critically ill. The national banquet is cancelled.”
The Crown Prince is critically ill?!
The hall immediately turned into a furor. Hadn’t he been getting better?
Strangely, Hua Xi Wan’s gaze landed on Sheng Junwang again. She only saw Sheng Junwang’s face was filled with shock, but the wine cup in his hand was steady and no wine spilled out at all.
She turned back to look at Yan Jin Qiu, showing a terrified expression that was the same as his.
Translator Ramblings: Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu are making third wheels of everyone else.