This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
“Speak, who sent you?” He Ming crossed his legs and sat on the chair. He lazily took a sip of tea and glanced at the palace maid lying on the ground. His smile was scornful. Other palace maids got close to His Majesty possibly for glory and wealth, but the intentions of this one were hard to say.
At night, she walked copying Her Majesty’s walking posture, and she knew where the emperor would appear. A normal palace maid could not do this.
The emperor was becoming more prestigious in the court, and many of the court had other thoughts. But some people tried to attract the emperor’s attention, while others tried to send women into the palace.
In He Ming’s view, these people that wanted to rely on nepotism to stabilize their positions were the shame of the aristocratic families. Even if such families could be glorious for a time, they could not always be so.
The palace maid on the ground did not move or speak. He Ming did not care. He put down his teacup, and raised his eyebrows. “If you are not willing, fine. Fortunately, some of the punishment eunuchs will have more chances to practice their skills.”
The palace maid convulsed. Clearly, He Ming’s words evoked some painful memories in her mind, and she unconsciously reacted.
Seeing her like this, He Ming showed a hint of a smile. He seemed very satisfied that she was like this. “Fine, let’s do this. This one has no free time to waste words with you.”
The eunuchs standing at the side nodded and bowed as they saw He Ming out of the Bureau of Careful Conduct. Turning back to the palace maid, they had cruel joy on their faces.
They were very happy this beautiful woman had landed in their hands.
“Your Majesty.” He Ming returned to the imperial study, and bowed to Jin Yang. Bai Xian, who had been grinding ink for Jin Yang, looked up and glanced at him.
“Confessed?” Jin Yang asked without even looking up.
“This servant is useless.” He Ming apologized humbly. “This palace maid is very close-mouthed. The person behind her must have something against her.”
“It is not important who is behind her. What is important is that this Purple Imperial Hall needs to be cleaned from the inside to the outside.” Jin Yang looked at He Ming. “Zhen wants the empress safe!”
“Your Majesty, please do not worry. This servant has investigated the ancestors, relatives and friends of everyone serving the empress. No one suspicious can come near the empress.” He Ming knew how much the emperor valued the empress and her child. So he had worked very hard for the safety of the empress.
“That is good.” Jin Yang put down the brush, and exhaled deeply. “It seems to have been very long since Zhen has gone to the Palace of Cautious Conduct?”
He Ming unconsciously straightened.
The Palace of Cautious Conduct was still dilapidated. When Jin Yang walked into the palace, he smelled the musty odor and frowned.
Qi Lian, unkempt, saw Jin Yang come in, and reacted after a moment. “Your Honored Majesty, how is it you have come to a dirty place like this?”
Qi Lian did not look like the minister of a country now. His face was dirty, his hair oily, and his clothing were unrecognizable. He looked no different from a beggar on the street.
“Take him for a bath and a change of clothes.” Jin Yang frowned and then said, “Zhen will come again in the afternoon.”
Qi Lian wanted to say a few mocking words, but thinking that there was a rare chance to bathe, he swallowed his words. He feared causing Jin Yang’s displeasure, and having this rare chance fly away.
After three buckets of water, Qi Lian finally cleaned himself. He changed into the clothing that the eunuch gave him, not caring whether the cloth was good enough. He stood in the crude room with his hair loose, and felt like he had come back to life.
“Now, you look like a person.” Bai Xian walked into the room, a tray in his hands. On the tray was a bowl of white rice, and some oily roasted chicken.
Nine months before this, Qi Lian would have looked down on these things. But at a time like this, when he saw the roasted chicken, he could not help but feel saliva flow in his mouth.
When Bai Xian put the tray down, he did not care for his image, rolling up his sleeves and taking the roasted chicken to eat. He did not even brush his hair away from sticking on the chicken leg.
Seeing him eat like this, Bai Xian could not help but think back to how elegant this person was back when he was the envoy from Gaoluo to Great Feng. It could be seen that something like manners could only be perfect when one was not thirsty or hungry. If eating and drinking was a problem, who cared about these things?
After eating half of the roasted chicken, Qi Lian slowed down. He licked the oil from his fingers, looked at Bai Xian and said, “Speak—what does His Majesty want me to do?”
After imprisoning him for so long and feeding him pig food and raw water, and keeping him without bathing or changes of clothes, now he suddenly had such good treatment. He would not believe it if nothing was happening.
“I do not know His Majesty’s thoughts.” Bai Xian smiled insincerely. “Mister Qi Lian, do not be in a hurry. When His Majesty comes, you will naturally know.”
Knowing that he could not get any news out of this eunuch, Qi Lian just buried himself in eating. He cleaned out the roasted chicken and the rice before he wiped his mouth and said, “This… this is likely an abandoned palace in the imperial palace?
Back then, the empress could easily see Sima Xiang, and the emperor could come in and out as he pleased. This meant the emperor did not fear his whereabouts being revealed, or arousing any suspicions.
The most dangerous place was the safest place. So this was likely inside the imperial palace.
Bai Xian smiled. “Mister Qi Lian is so smart.”
“It is not that I am smart, but that you did not conceal at all.” When Qi Lian was brought into the prison, he was unconscious. He did not know where he had been brought to. Only when Sima Xiang was brought in did he have a guess as to where he was.
Without him present, Gaoluo was likely in chaos and could not invade Great Feng. Who would think that he, the Prime Minister, would be imprisoned in such a place?
Hearing him say this, Bai Xian did not refute, and stood at the side with a smile as though he was not keeping watch, but serving.
Qi Lian thought inside, No wonder he could do so well with the emperor and empress. Such a person was very smart.
At this time in Purple Imperial Hall, there was the smell of food. Jin Yang saw Gu Ru Jiu yawn several times, and could not help but ask, “You are tired again?”
“Yes.” Gu Ru Jiu put down her chopsticks, and took the cup a palace maid handed her to rinse her mouth. She rubbed her forehead and said, “I will sleep for a while; leave these for me to eat after waking up.”
Jin Yang put down his bowls and chopsticks. Seeing her lie down and sleep, he smiled helplessly and put down the bed hangings for her before he turned around.
“Your Majesty…” The eunuch on duty looked carefully at the table when seeing Jin Yang come out, and did not know what to do.
“Take it away.” Jin Yang did not even look at the dishes on the table, and left. He Ming saw this, and immediately followed.
Leaving Purple Imperial Hall, He Ming saw the sky was not right and whispered, “Your Majesty, the sky looks like it is going to rain.”
Jin Yang looked up and saw the sky covered with black clouds, so heavy they were suffocating.
This caused him to think of himself back when he tried to do all he could so the official with the decree could see him and let him come to the capital. The weather that day had been like this. In order to avoid the people his stepmother had sent to stop him, he burrowed into holes, climbed trees, and jumped over walls. He did everything.
Before he was about to appear, he had changed from the dirty robes, trying to make himself look clean and motivated, but show that he did not live as well as his siblings.
“Your Majesty?” He Ming saw that Jin Yang did not have a good expression, and looked worriedly at him.
Jin Yang’s eyelids moved slightly, and he put his hands behind his back. “To the Palace of Cautious Conduct.”
In the side hall of the Palace of Cautious Conduct, Qi Lian had gone to the bathroom with diarrhea. Now, his stomach was empty and it had finally stopped. One’s stomach could not endure after so long of not eating oily food.
He sat on the chair, weak, and glanced at Bai Xian in the corner. He jerked his mouth. “Bai Gonggong, you are so polite.”
He was in such a sorry state, but Bai Xian could keep his composure. He did not laugh, and had servants make a bowl of medicine. Such a good attitude he was unused to it.
Bai Xian was about to speak when he heard faint footsteps coming from outside. His expression grew stern, and he turned to greet without even looking at Qi Lian.
Qi Lian was confused. But a moment later, he saw Jin Yang walk in, with Bai Xian following in his footsteps.
No wonder he could become the emperor’s confidant. This person could recognize the emperor’s footsteps from so far away. Ordinary people could not have such ability.
Jin Yang saw Qi Lian pale, and his legs trembling. He did not ask the cause and spoke directly. “Zhen came today to tell you a thing.”
“What?” Qi Lian unconsciously felt that this matter had to do with him.
“Zhen plans on reinvestigating the past case of Consort Lin poisoning the imperial son.” Jin Yang looked expressionlessly at Qi Lian. “If this case really has nothing to do with Consort Lin, Zhen will give back to the Lin Family their innocence, and let Consort Lin be entombed in the consort tombs. That way, she will receive incense and not be a lonely ghost.”
Qi Lian’s expression moved slightly. A beat later, he said, “It has been so long since then—how will you investigate?”
“There are only cases that people do not want to investigate, not unsolvable ones.” Jin Yang jerked the corners of his lips. “Zhen just wants to know if you hope for the Lin Family to get justice.”
Qi Lian laughed scornfully. “So what if the Lin Family gets justice? The hundreds of lives of the Lin Family cannot come back. You Jin family members are so disgusting.”
“The one who wronged the Lin Family was the previous emperor, and not Zhen.” Jin Yang did not care about Qi Lian cursing the Jin Family. In his view, the previous emperor and some of the Jin family members were disgusting in their conduct. Qi Lian was right. “At least, hundreds and thousands of years later, your Lin Family will be written in the history books as having been wronged, and not having been executed because of poisoning an imperial son.”
After a moment of silence, Qi Lian tried to suppress his excitement. “You do not think that the empress dowager will be sad when an old matter is brought up again?”
The wind blew, and the dilapidated windows in the hall banged.
Jin Yang looked at the swaying windows and said in a calm tone, “Zhen just does not want that child to have died in obscurity.”
“Ha.” Qi Lian sneered. He looked down on Jin Yang’s high-sounding remarks. “Speak—what do you want me to do?”
After he said this, Jin Yang looked up at him.
Qi Lian could see in this pair of eyes that made countless men jealous and countless women crazy, there was endless ambition and killing intent.
“I want you to stand up and accuse Prince Rui of being in collusion with enemies.”
“Just this?” He narrowed his eyes at Jin Yang and did not believe that it would be so simple. He, this Gaoluo Prime Minister who had disappeared for so long, suddenly coming out and accusing Prince Rui—it would not just be a matter of a few words.
Jin Yang suddenly gave a faint smile. “Other than this, what other use do you have?”
Qi Lian felt that he was insulted. When he wanted to refute, Jin Yang had left through the door.
“Oh, I…” Qi Lian felt he wanted to curse again.
“Mister Qi Lian.” Bai Xian, who was still in his original spot, suddenly spoke. “You will stay here these days.”
Qi Lian looked around the room. The tables, chairs and bed were old, but this was much better than the lightless prison. He narrowed his eyes at Bai Xian. “His Majesty does not fear an outside man like me living in the palace, hmm?”
He did not say clearly, but Bai Xian knew his meaning. The other then said with a false smile, “Then the Lin Family will truly not have a root. If I were you, I would stay inside the room and go nowhere. If you are discovered and killed, do not blame others.”
After being secretly warned, Qi Lian snorted, but perceptively did not say more.
Seeing him settle down, Bai Xian nodded in satisfaction. “Mister Qi is not well, so rest early.” After saying this, he turned and left.
“If there is such a master, there is such a servant.” Qi Lian shook his head and lay down on the bed before his expression gradually grew dark. Thinking of the entire Lin Family, he closed his eyes in pain. He let the wind blow and the rain roar outside without opening his eyes.
“It is going to rain soon—how is it you have come here now?” Empress Dowager Zhou was in a good mood when she saw Jin Yang come. Last time, because of her paternal family, she knew that Jin Yang felt slightly displeased. Seeing him come, the bit of worry she felt was relieved.
“This son was just passing by, and came to see Mother-Empress,” Jin Yang said with a smile.
Empress Dowager Zhou smiled and had people present tea and pastries. She did not ask, if he came from Purple Imperial Hall to Kangquan Palace, how he could pass by. Jin Yang also did not explain. This was a tacit understanding between mother and son.
“Mother-Empress’ tea is still so delicious.” Jin Yang took a sip of tea and found a familiar taste.
“You are not praising me, but Jiu Jiu.” Empress Dowager Zhou knew his personality, so she was not very polite in speaking. “Jiu Jiu brought over the tea last time. I drank it and felt that it had good effects, and my sleep became much better.”
“As long as Mother-Empress does not mind.” When the tea entered his mouth, he knew this was the kind that Jiu Jiu had him constantly drinking. “This son came today and has a matter to discuss with Mother-Empress.”
“What is it?” Empress Dowager Zhou said with a smile.
“This son wants to reinvestigate the past case of Consort Lin poisoning the imperial son.”
“Clang!” The wind blew against the window, and the window hit the wall making a loud sound. Empress Dowager Zhou’s smile gradually faded. Her hands trembled as they held the teacup. “Why did you suddenly have such an idea?”
“Because this son suspects that there is someone else behind it.” Jin Yang stood and bowed deeply to Empress Dowager Zhou. “This son does not want my brother to die in such obscurity.”
Empress Dowager Zhou opened her mouth but did not know what to say. A moment later, she tiredly leaned her body back in her chair. She closed her eyes so her emotions would not show. “Whom do you… suspect?”
Empress Dowager understood Jin Yang well. If this was baseless, Jin Yang would never mention it to her. Now, he dared to say he suspected Prince Rui. Then this matter had to be connected with Prince Rui.
“I see.” She opened her eyes. “Go and do it.”
Thinking of the son and daughter she had given birth to back then, Empress Dowager Zhou felt her heart was being stabbed, and had no more energy to deal with Jin Yang.
Jin Yang also knew that he was not welcome at this time and stood up. “This son bids farewell.”
Empress Dowager Zhou waved her hand and did not speak.
Both mother and son knew well that no matter how harmonious and close they acted usually, they were not a true mother-and-son pair.
His status in the empress dowager’s heart could not compare to the imperial son who died before the age of two. The empress dowager chose him just to choose a suitable emperor. And he respected the empress dowager just out of gratitude that he could become the emperor.
As for feelings…
Coming out of Kangquan Palace, the wind was blowing hard. His sleeves and the corners of his robes flew in the wind madly.
“Your Majesty, the wind outside is too strong. Be careful.” He Ming took a few steps forward, and blocked the wind for Jin Yang.
Jin Yang glanced at him and did not speak. They walked to Purple Imperial Hall. When he saw the figure standing at the gates, he unconsciously sped up, and ran up the jade stairs.
“Jiu Jiu, how come you are here?” He touched Gu Ru Jiu’s hands. After confirming that her hands were not cold, he was relieved. “The wind outside is so strong—why have you come out?”
“I just woke up and did not see you, so I knew you went out.” Gu Ru Jiu smiled and pulled him towards the room. “The wind outside is so strong, and I could not sleep, so I came out to see. If it was raining, I could send someone with an umbrella.”
“There is no need to send an umbrella. There are so many places in the palace.” Jin Yang smiled, and felt warm in his heart.
At the major court session, just as everyone thought today’s discussions could be finished, the emperor suddenly spoke.
This one usually did not speak, but when he did, he was frightening. So when Jin Yang spoke, everybody was standing ready, stopping their breathing and thinking inside, who is going to be misfortunate this time.
Who knew that the emperor did not go find trouble, but gave someone a title.
It was not a big deal to give a title. As long as there was no problem with the virtue of the person being ennobled, everyone could accept. But this time, the person the emperor was ennobling was really…
“Your Majesty, the eldest imperial son passed long ago. Perhaps…”
“Because Zhen‘s younger brother passed away early, Zhen does not bear for him to have no incense after a hundred years.” Jin Yang looked coolly at the official who had spoken. “Zhen will ennoble him as Prince An, which is very suitable.”
Passing away early was thought of as unfilial because it was the white-haired people sending away the black-haired. But this matter did not have much to do with them. Strictly speaking, this was the emperor wanting to gain favor with his mother in name, so he ennobled his mother’s true son.
In any case… as long as the emperor was happy.
Everyone looked at each other and felt that this was important or not depending on how you looked at it. Important because it went against the rules. But unimportant because it was the older brother caring for the younger brother. It just depended on what they, the subjects, thought.
“Your Majesty is kind!” Zhang Zhong Han came out, wiped his eyes and said emotionally, “If His Highness Prince An knows in the underworld, he will be very moved.”
Haha, you already call him Your Highness—what is there left to say!
They expressed great disdain to Zhang Zhong Han’s fawning conduct, and then countless people expressed their agreement.
As long as you, the emperor, have no objections, why would they care about a matter like this? Just as long as you did not make this imperial son the emperor.
When the news that the emperor made the imperial son Prince An reached Kangquan Palace, Empress Dowager Zhou cried until her eyes were red. She held Matron Liu’s hand. “My son… in the future, he will have people dedicate incense to him.”
“Your Majesty.” Matron Liu comforted Empress Dowager Zhou. “The emperor is filial to you, and made the decision against the objections of the crowd. If you are sad because of this, wouldn’t this be against the emperor’s intention?”
“You are right.” Empress Dowager Zhou wiped her tears, and then said, “Go see what is in my stores and send over what is suitable to the empress.”
She could not give them the emperor, so giving them to the empress was the same.
Matron Liu relaxed inside. The empress dowager did not forget herself. Otherwise, if it was spread…
Not one’s own, so in her actions, it was better to be more careful.
“Father-Prince, what does His Majesty mean in suddenly titling the imperial son?” The Rui Prince Heir was slightly anxious. “Could it be…”
“Impossible,” Prince Rui said certainly. “It has been more than a decade since the matter. No one can know. The people who knew have no chance of speaking.”
“Then why did the emperor do this?” The Rui Prince Heir did not understand. “If it is just to gain favor with the empress dowager, back when he ascended the throne, he could have done this. Why delay until now?”
“Back when he ascended the throne, the one in charge was not him, but the empress dowager. A smart woman like the empress dowager would not mention something like this herself and cause criticism from the world.” Prince Rui sneered. “Now, the emperor is governing on his own. If this is mentioned, then it is not the empress dowager’s idea, but him being filial toward the empress dowager. When this spreads, the people will only say that he is filial.”
“So that is how it is…” The Rui Prince Heir sighed in relief. “I also thought…”
“This father said to you long ago—as a man, do not panic when you encounter matters. You are not mature enough.” Prince Rui frowned. “Starting today, write ten more pages each day.”
“Yes.” The Rui Prince Heir did not dare to argue and immediately answered.
“Yes.” Prince Rui nodded in satisfaction. Thinking of the emperor’s conduct, if this was really his son, he would not have to spend so much energy on scheming.
He had not thought that a coward like Prince Cheng could have such a good son.
But thinking of the emperor’s attitude towards Prince Cheng, and the decline of Prince Cheng’s establishment after his death, he laughed in satisfaction.
What was the use in having a good son? No fortune to enjoy it. Until death, he still thought that Jin Yang was not his son. Pitiful and laughable.
Translator Ramblings: While the dowager empress and Jin Yang have a good relationship, their adoptive relationship is very difficult and very very political. The dowager empress didn’t try to grip onto power, but for the first few years, if she wanted to, she likely could have deposed Jin Yang and gotten another cousin on the throne.