This chapter has been brought to you by me, Adnana, and Vivie.
Chapter Seventy: Death of the Crown Prince
Even though the national banquet had been cancelled, no one dared to leave Chao Yang Hall without a decree from the Emperor. They could only sit in the hall and engage in verbal conflict with each other as well as use their acting skills. At this time, Hua Xi Wan was not fighting alone because the person beside her also showed a terror as though the sky was falling.
“How can it be like this? May the Heavens bless the Crown Prince to become well, and have good fortune.”
“The Heavens bless; the Crown Prince has good fortune and nothing will happen.”
Even though these people were going overboard in acting their grief, Hua Xi Wan could feel a kind of heaviness from them. It was not that they were worried about the Crown Prince himself but they were worried that, if the Crown Prince really died, it would cause the entire court to destabilize. She looked downwards and saw envoys from subordinate countries sitting together. The envoys were talking among themselves and were clearly shocked at the news.
The Crown Prince was the heir to the country. What was tragic was that Qilong Emperor only had this one son. If the Crown Prince passed away, then the Great Zhao Dynasty would face a situation where there was no heir. When the time came, Qilong Emperor would have to pick a nephew out of his pile of nephews. This would cause conflict and competition.
At this time, people in the hall were starting to think. If the Crown Prince really passed away, if the babe inside the Crown Princess was not male or could not grow to adulthood, who was the better choice for them to support?
Yi’an Marquis Hua He Zheng and Lu shi listened to the discussion around them and felt anxious inside. The couple couldn’t resist glancing up at Hua Xi Wan who was sitting deeper in the hall. They only saw Hua Xi Wan having a fearful expression, and Yan Jin Qiu with his head lowered as he comforted her.
If the Crown Prince passed away, Xian Wang Fu would be pulled into the conflict. It was not important if Xian Wang had the ambition or not; what was most important was that Xian Wang’s status meant that he could not avoid the conflict.
“Aiya, what to do? Please, nothing should happen to the Crown Prince.” Jing Ping Baroness had a frightened expression. She was truly afraid and there was no acting. The house of Jing Ping Baron had been slowly declining. They had finally managed to ally themselves to the Crown Prince after many years, but now something had happened to the Crown Prince. They really were unfortunate.
“The Emperor has spoken, the Crown Prince is dangerously ill. All people are forbidden to leave the imperial palace and are to pray for the Crown Prince.”
When the second decree came, some smart people detected the strangeness of the matter. The Emperor’s actions seemed to intend to imprison them all in the palace. Was the sudden occurrence of illness in the Crown Prince deliberate on someone’s part?
Ever since the Crown Prince had been poisoned, Zhu Que Palace had been surrounded by the Imperial Guard. What the Crown Prince ate, wore, and used was only delivered to the Crown Prince after it was inspected by the grand doctors. His food and drink would have poison testers. Yet under such tightly guarded circumstances, the person responsible had managed to get through. The culprit really had great power. No wonder the Emperor was so wary.
If the Crown Prince passed away, then the ones who would benefit most were the imperial nephews in Jing who were the most respected. No wonder the Emperor would act like this.
After this pronouncement came, all the people in Zhao Yang Hall were anxious. Some of the more timid womenfolk changed expression and were even unable to speak properly. No one dared to guarantee that the Emperor would not lose control because of losing his only son, and vent on the innocent people.
There had been an emperor in the previous dynasty who killed a dozen of the Imperial Family members after losing his beloved son, as well as countless palace attendants and doctors. Because of that matter, the dynasty had gone into decline and was replaced by the Zhao Dynasty a few decades after.
It was not that they were cowardly but that there was the example from the previous dynasty. They did not dare to gamble with their lives.
The coal fires in the hall had died out, and no palace attendants came to replenish the fire. The hall gradually turned cold. Yan Jin Qiu took Hua Xi Wan’s cape from Bai Xia’s hand to put it over her. Then he said in a light voice by her ear, “If you are cold, lean on me. At this time, no one would dare to come here.”
Hua Xi Wan gripped the collar of the fox fur cape and silently leaned towards Yan Jin Qiu. She was not especially sensitive about politics, but from the expressions of the people present, she knew that this matter was not simple, and she did not speak.
The hall gradually quieted as time flowed by. When the imperial guards came in full armor to surround the entire hall, people did not need to act as their expressions turned ugly.
Suddenly, a burst of white light flashed outside the hall. People looked in shock outside and heard a roar of thunder. The thunder seemed to explode in their minds, and many people started to tremble.
“Thunder in the middle of winter—this is not a good omen.”
It was unknown who suddenly said this. The entire hall was silent.
It was rare for thunder to sound during the winter months, much less when it was still snowing. A sudden clap of thunder and lightning like this really was an omen for a calamily.
Yan Jin Qiu gripped Hua Xi Wan’s hand and said in an almost imperceptible tone by her ear, “Do not be afraid.” He glanced at the expressionless faces of the Imperial Guard outside. His brow creased slightly. He found that Hua Xi Wan’s hand was cold and took off his own cape to put on Hua Xi Wan.
“You…” Hua Xi Wan glanced at Yan Jin Qiu’s clothing that was not thick and reached to take off this dark-colored cape. However, Yan Jin Qiu stopped her.
“Don’t move. You once almost froze when you were young; you cannot get cold again,” Yan Jin Qiu said with a grave expression. “Listen to me.”
Hua Xi Wan’s hand stilled and then she said, “This cape is very large. We can each have half.” Then she untied the strings to the cape and spread the large cape over their backs.
The other people saw this and followed suit. Even though some couples were respectful strangers in their daily lives, they did not care at this time.
At this moment, there was another burst of lightning and then thunder.
“Dong.” The sound of the mourning bell sounded, and then it sounded five more times.
Death of the emperor, nine strikes; death of the empress, seven strikes; death of the heir, six strikes.
“The Crown Prince is dead.”
The people in the hall knelt down dazedly amid the clangs of the mourning bell, as though they were unable to react. Just a few days ago, the Crown Prince had rumors about being lusty going around, and now he died like this.
After the mourning bells stopped, sobs resounded in the hall. There were many people present who were elders of the Crown Prince, but the Crown Prince was the heir to the country. As a result, his status surpassed conventions of seniority. No matter who the person was, they had to cry audibly.
Even if they could not cry, they had to howl to express their sadness.
Hua Xi Wan used her handkerchief to rub the corners of her eyes. Moments later, she started crying with red eyes.
In her past life, she had great skill in crying in front of the camera. Even when she was surrounded by people during filming, she could cry on command—much less compete in crying now with a group of people.
Not even an hour later, her handkerchief was soaked. Beside her, Yan Jin Qiu’s eyes and nose were red. Even though he was not wailing like the other people, anyone who saw him would feel that he was truly in mourning, and not acting.
When Qilong Emperor appeared, Yan Jin Qiu and Hua Xi Wan were crying grievously and formed a contrast to the Imperial Family members in the surroundings who were just wailing.
The Qilong Emperor who appeared seemed to have aged a few years. He stumbled in his steps as his gaze swept across the people kneeling. His gaze lingered on Yan Jin Qiu and Yan Bo Yi. When he saw Yan Jin Qiu and Hua Xi Wan leaning against each other, he finally stopped his gaze on Yan Bo Yi.
“Zhen has lost the only son. Everyone… kneel in farewell.” Qilong Emperor’s expression changed and he hid the murderousness in his eyes.
When the words came out, the people released a breath. They finally could step outside the palace gates in peace.
Because they had knelt for too long, Hua Xi Wan felt her knees were numb and cold when she was rising. She had almost lost feeling in them. If it wasn’t for Yan Jin Qiu who had quick eyes and hands, and came to hold her waist, she would have sat back down on the ground.
When he grabbed onto Hua Xi Wan, Yan Jin Qiu also stumbled and seemed to appear as a weakling. However, everyone was immersed in their own emotions, and there were not many who noticed this scene.
But Qilong Emperor saw the actions of the husband and wife. He lowered his eye slightly and then turned his gaze onto Yan Bo Yi.
At this time, Yan Bo Yi was standing silently with his hands behind his back. The rims of his eyes were slightly red but they did not reduce his bearing.
Qilong Emperor did not keep anyone. The people walked silently out of Chao Yang Hall. They looked with dazed expressions as the bright red lanterns on the corridors were switched with white lanterns.
The Crown Prince was dead—what would Jing become in the future?
There was a layer of snow on the slate path. Because no palace attendants had come to sweep, everyone had a difficult time walking.
When Hua Xi Wan passed by Hua He Zheng and Lu shi, she only gave them a discreet glance and did not say a thing.
Coming out though the hall gates, Yan Jin Qiu put both of their capes on Hua Xi Wan and caused her walking posture to seem unusually clumsy. Her gold-embroidered pearl-encrusted palace slippers caused the snow to squeak as she walked. Yan Jin Qiu saw her difficulty in walking and did not care about the people around them. He curled an arm around her waist so she could walk more easily.
Min Huai Junzhu was holding the hand of a servant girl as she walked forward unsteadily. Just after a short distance, she was panting. She gazed at Xian Wang Fei who was being half-carried by Xian Wang, and stopped in her stride.
Now that the Crown Prince was dead, the Empress would be in great mourning and would not have the attention to take care of her matters. What should she do in the future?
She looked around dazedly and only saw the cold palace corridors and the members of the Imperial Family and of prestigious families who were walking towards the exit.
“Junzhu?” Her servant girl saw that her expression was not quite right and asked worriedly, “What is it?”
“It’s nothing.” Min Huai Junzhu moved her gaze away. “Let’s go.”
From Chao Yang Hall to the palace gates, Hua Xi Wan found that almost everything that was celebratory had been put away. She couldn’t see anything celebratory even on the clothing of the palace attendants and the taijian.
When they reached the gates of the palace, no one exchanged pleasantries. They hurriedly got on their own carriages and left.
When Hua Xi Wan stepped onto the stool to enter the carriage, she turned back and saw her parents nearby. After nodding slightly towards them, she bent to enter the carriage.
Hua He Zheng looked at the carriage of Xian Wang Fu moving away. He sighed slightly and said to Lu shi, “Let’s go as well.”
Lu shi nodded and put her slightly cool hand in Hua He Zheng’s hand.
Translator Ramblings: Who didn’t see this coming?