This chapter has been brought to you by me and Adnana.
In the twelfth month, it was the coldest time of the year. Old Zhao shuddered as he wrapped his worn clothing around him, and went to the door with a shovel to clean away the snow.
The guards at the gates recognized Old Zhao. Seeing him with his head shrunk back, they teased him.
Old Zhao was not angry, and responded with a smile. This was the capital suburbs, and a snowy day. These guards stood guard over the gates of this estate that no one ever entered or left. There was no meaning. Teasing him a bit was not a big deal.
After the guards finished teasing Old Zhao, they helped him shovel the snow. They were those who had not done well in the capital, so they were sent here. No one cared if they watched the door or abided by the rules.
“I heard that Brother Chen spent two hundred taels of silver and was transferred to the Left Right Guards?” Guard A said with admiration, “If I had so much silver, I would follow him.”
“Do not dream. He had the silver and the connections.” Guard B shook his head. “Even if we had the money, we’d have no place to spend it.”
Who did not want to transfer? They guarded this deposed prince, and there was no merit in it. When would they reach the end?
“Look, aren’t there people coming from over there?” Old Zhao suddenly pointed in the distance, where it seemed there was a horse procession coming over.
The two guards looked up, and changed expressions when they saw this. Guard B threw away the shovel in his hand, and hurriedly said, “It is the imperial procession. Old Zhao, go and notify the other people in the estate to welcome the procession.”
Old Zhao had never seen such a major event. He scrambled towards the estate, and notified the steward and the others.
Jin Yuan Qing heard a lot of noise suddenly come from outside, threw down his brush and frowned.
“Father…” His son Jin Liang panted as he ran in. “His Majesty has come.”
Jin Yuan Qing looked down. A long time later, he said, “Push me out.”
“Yes.” They had been imprisoned here for more than half a year. There was none of the comfort they had had back in Prince Rui’s Establishment. They had to do many things on their own. The past of being surrounded by servants was like a dream.
“Your Majesty, we have arrived at the estate.” He Ming looked at the desolate-looking estate, and pulled his clothing tightly around him. The wind today was bone-chilling.
Jin Yang wore brocade robes edged with white fox fur. Outside, he wore a silver rat jacket. When he stepped down from the carriage, he did not look like an emperor, but like an aristocratic young master.
But Jin Liang, who stood at the gates to welcome him, knew how vicious this seemingly gentle and kind emperor was.
“This commoner greets Your Majesty.” A commoner had to kneel in front of the emperor. Jin Liang kneeled, the cold snow soaking through his clothing to his knees. He shuddered in cold.
“No need for such a greeting.” Jin Yang stepped on the stone stairs. After entering, he saw Jin Yuan Qing sitting on the wheelchair, and the other members of the estate kneeling behind him.
Jin Yang lifted his head slightly.
He Ming saw this, and hurriedly said, “Rise.”
Jing Yuan Qing looked up and saw the youth at the doorway. The other was dressed in white, while he was dressed in old robes and looked like a ball of mud in front of the other.
“Imperial Uncle, have you been well recently?” Jin Yang looked at Jin Yuan Qing calmly, like he was just looking at a normal stranger, and not at a prince who had rebelled.
“Your Majesty is joking—this criminal cannot hold the title of imperial uncle.” Jin Yuan Qing raised his folded hands in greeting. “Please forgive this criminal’s crippled legs for not performing the greeting.”
Bowing behind Jin Yang, Jin Liang heard his father’s words, and was so frightened he broke out in a cold sweat. He looked at Jin Yuan Qing, wanting him not to anger this emperor.
“Even if Imperial Uncle has committed crimes, you are still Zhen‘s uncle—this is an undoubted truth.” Jin Yang looked at the estate. It was not very good, but compared to where he had lived in his childhood, it was about the same.
“This is the first time Zhen is visiting Uncle’s residence. If Uncle does not mind, walk with Zhen.” Jin Yang put his hands behind his back, and slowly walked in front of Jing Yuan Qing. The snowflakes fell on his head, and made him look a bit chilly.
“If Your Majesty does not mind this criminal’s crippled legs, this criminal is willing to keep company.” Jin Yuan Qing had no possibility of standing up after he was shot in the legs. He mentioned this just to mock Jin Yang for being a hypocrite.
But such mockery was useless against Jin Yang. He nodded and said, “Zhen will not mind.”
He Ming immediately arranged people to clear the path, and had all unrelated people withdraw, leaving only him, His Majesty, and Jin Yuan Qing.
At this, Jin Yuan Qing laughed scornfully. “Your Majesty coming to visit the estate is false—you have something you want to say?”
But Jin Yang did tour this small estate, and then said, “Uncle’s place is better than Zhen’s in the past.”
He did not say when in the past, but Jing Yuan Qing knew. He looked at Jin Yang standing in the snow, and said after a moment of silence, “Your Majesty, speak directly; no need to equivocate.”
“Zhen heard that Uncle had a past with Princess Consort Cheng?” Jin Yang lifted his hand to catch snowflakes. He suddenly remembered that Jiu Jiu had once done this, and his expression gentled.
Jin Yuan Qing was silent. He knew the Princess Consort Cheng that Jin Yang spoke of was Sima shi. How could the past between him and Sima shi be described as “a past?”
Back then, he loved Sima shi, even wanting to die for her, but the Sima Family wanted to marry her to his second brother. Only because he was crippled, because he was not favored by his father-emperor.
The lofty Sima Clan would not marry their legitimate miss to him.
He went mad, questioning Sima shi, even begging her not to agree to Prince Cheng’s proposal. But all this was just his delusion.
The day that Sima shi married, it had been snowing like this, but the red which filled his sight stabbed at his eyes.
Family, power, glory. Sima shi could not give up all this, because of her family. He could not give her what she wanted.
Thinking of the past, Jin Yuan Qing felt furious and embarrassed, as well as unspeakably pained. He looked at Jin Yang. A beat later, he said, “The deceased have passed; Your Majesty does not need to mention it again.”
“Princess Consort Cheng once said that the day Zhen was born, there was a heavy rain in Jin Prefecture. The lightning flashed and the thunder roared like the world was going to turn over.” He turned, his back to Jin Yuan Qing. “Before Zhen was born, Princess Consort Cheng had been traveling the entire time, so her pregnancy was not stable. So Zhen has been of ill health in these years. All of Prince Cheng’s establishment thought that Zhen was not going to survive, but Zhen survived well.”
After Prince Cheng married back then, the second year he went to Jin Prefecture to take office. At that time, Princess Consort Cheng had been pregnant, and it was not unusual for travel to make the pregnancy unstable.
Jin Yuan Qing wanted to mock Prince Cheng for not being considerate enough, but before he spoke, he changed expression. “Aren’t you ill because you were born premature?”
Back then, Sima shi and Prince Cheng were married at the end of the eleventh month. After Jin Yang was born, many people knew that the eldest legitimate son of Prince Cheng was not good of health because he was born early.
While the saying was that seven months babies survived, but eight months ones did not, Jin Yang survived, although he was not of good health.
“Of course…” Jin Yang smiled. “Maybe so. How will Zhen know?”
Jin Yuan Qing wanted to struggle up. But his legs were crippled, and his efforts were in vain. He Ming pressed on his shoulder, and smiled insincerely. “Master Jin, please sit well—do not fall.”
“Tell me, tell me, back then…” Jin Yuan Qing’s tendons bulged in his face due to the effort he was making. “Back then, your mother…”
“Uncle, did you not say the deceased have passed—what is there to mention about the past?” Jin Yang exhaled deeply. He looked at the worn-down courtyard. “It seems that Uncle is accustomed to this place. Zhen is reassured; return to the palace.”
“No, no, no—you cannot go.” Jin Yuan Qing wanted to grab Jin Yang. He Ming was not able to keep him down, and he fell from the wheelchair. But he did not care at all. Using his hands, he slowly crawled on the snow towards where Jin Yang was standing.
Jin Yang saw the figure moving slowly on the ground, and showed a complicated expression in his eyes. He closed his eyes, and before the other was about to grab the corner of his robe, he moved. ” Zhen is going. Uncle, take care.”
“Wait, wait…” Jin Yuan Qing wanted to climb up, but fell futilely to the ground, his face covered with snow. He looked up, and only saw that white figure walk away, and disappear outside the gates.
He still did not give up, wanting to climb there. After a few steps, he suddenly stopped.
“No one can know, no one can know..” He pulled his hands back, muttering and allowing the snow to fall on him.
“Father!” Jin Liang, after seeing Jin Yang off, found Jin Yuan Qing in the snow and hurriedly helped him up. He could not help but curse. “The emperor is too much—if he wants to beat or kill, he should just say it. Why… why embarrass people like this?”
“Don’t blame him.” The snow melted and flowed along his hair to the ground. Jin Yuan Qing wiped his face, and then found his hands were red from the cold.
He suddenly thought, more than a decade ago, a subordinate had reported how the eldest legitimate son of Prince Cheng was living.
Eating cold buns, drinking snow, being bullied by his stepmother’s son in order to get a hot meal.
What had he felt back then?
It had seemed to be pleasure. He even arranged for people to scheme a plan for Prince Cheng so Jin Yang’s days would become even worse.
A drop of water fell on the back of his hand. He wiped it away with his other hand.
“The assassination plan… cancel it.”
“Father?!” Jin Liang looked in disbelief at Jin Yuan Qing. “This is our only chance. Why cancel?”
Jin Yuan Qing shook his head. He looked up at the sky, and only saw white.
After waiting for a while, Jin Liang did not get an answer from his father. Though unwilling, he could only swallow it.
The second day, news came from the capital. A fire had occurred last night, and a merchant caravan that had come to the capital was burned to death.
Jin Liang was shocked because the caravan had been made from the assassins in disguise.
“So he really knew.” Jin Liang did not believe that this was a fire at all. There were no coincidences in the world. A fire just happened to burn, and only burn the people they had arranged.
Thinking of Jin Yang’s methods, Jin Liang did not dare to have any thoughts again. He stayed on the estate, living under house arrest.
After several springs like this, a decree came suddenly from the palace. The emperor had set up the crown prince, and was pardoning the world. Their family was finally released.
Not merely so. The emperor gave his father a third-rank marquis title, with the title being Chun.
When the news spread, many people praised the emperor for being kind, and the empress benevolent. In contrast, their family looked even worse.
Pure was a good title, but on their heads, it was a mockery. Who in the world did not know that Prince Rui had failed in his rebellion back then?
They moved into the marquis establishment. No one came to celebrate with them. People came to spit at their gates, and there were even nursery rhymes sung outside the door, mocking and cursing them.
So while they looked to have been released, in reality, they lived even more unbearable days.
One day, when he left the home to buy snacks for his children, he suddenly encountered the Heir Zhong, Jin Hong, on the street. The other was dressed in brocade, and sat on a tall horse, with several aristocratic young masters wanting to gain favor around him.
Jin Hong seemed to see him, and got off his horse, finding an excuse to dismiss those people.
They had nothing to say to each other for a while. The two of them had both been heirs to princes, but they did not ever live together in childhood, and Prince Zhong had been at odds with his father. There was not much fraternal feeling between them.
“Came out to buy things?” Jin Hong was the first to speak. He saw the sugar people and other things in Jin Liang’s hands. “Are my two nephews well?”
“Pretty good.” Jin Liang forced a laugh. He looked at the moving passersby. “How about you?”
“Not bad.” Jin Hong smiled and appeared very free. Then he said, “Walk—let’s go to the restaurant and speak.”
Jin Liang looked back and found a large restaurant behind him. Hanging there was a plaque with the words “Delicious Fish Tower.”
“No need.” Jin Liang gripped what he held and shook his head. “The children are still waiting for me at home.”
Jin Hong did not force it. “If so, then I will not keep you. When you have time, let’s get together.”
Jin Liang smiled and acknowledged, but both knew they did not know when the next time would be. Their families had been on opposite sides back then, and had had different endings.
“Farewell!” Jin Liang raised his folded hands to Jin Hong and turned to leave without waiting for Jin Hong to respond. After walking a while, he could not help but look back. He saw Jin Hong standing at Delicious Fish Tower with some more young masters of extraordinary status.
There were many paths and directions in life. Different choices would lead to different endings.
Translator Ramblings: The author really decided to make the story just a bit more dark. Jin Yang’s good parent ratio is really not great. It’s the empress dowager vs. the deceased emperor/Sima shi/Prince Cheng/Princess Consort Cheng/Jin Yuan Qing. I feel like the author can’t let a historical story go without some sort of imperial family improper relation.