Chapter 257 - What should be said, and what shouldn’t be
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don't read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
This was the first time Ji Wanxin had ever been slapped, and the one who slapped her was Ji Muqing! Her face twisted. The corner of her mouth was torn and bloodied. Her hairpiece almost fell off her crown from the blow.
Ji Muqing’s hand was numb. Her delicately powdered face scrunched up as she declared, “Ji Wanxin, you are also a concubine's daughter, no different from Ji Yunshu. Remind me? You? You’re not worthy!” She snorted, flung her sleeves backward and left with a huff.
Ji Wanxin raised her deep-set eyes. Darkness smothered her usually gentle gaze. It was extremely strange. Her pale lips twitched. A smile crept across her face as she muttered, “Even the most docile of kittens will eventually grow sharp claws.”
At Liang Manor.
As the Emperor’s birthday was near, the government officials could not hold any funeral outwardly. As such, the traditional white silks of death and mourning where not hung outside the manor. The family and its servants did not even dress in mourning robes. The coffin was placed in the altar in the backyard and draped in black cloth. Several white candles burned above it. They didn't even use joss sticks. How miserable!
Minister Liang was not only handling the affairs pertaining the imperial family, he was also involved in the the selection of the Crown Prince’s consort, so he could not participate in any funerals, including his daughter’s funeral. Dressed in long, dark-purple satin robes - hands dangling at his sides - he crouched in front of his daughter’s coffin. His eyes and cheeks were sunken. It looked like he'd aged years overnight.
“Shu’er, your father is useless. He couldn’t bring you justice. He can't even make sure you're sent off properly. I was wrong. I am so sorry.” He trembled, tears about to fall.
The housekeeper hurried over from the front yard in that moment. He held an ornate black box in his hands. He walked up to Minister Liang and presented the box.
“Concubine Xiao sent this, Master. It is a condolence gift for the Young Miss.”
“Concubine Xiao?” Lord Liang was perplexed. He looked at the housekeeper, then at the box, “Why would she send a gift?”
“This servant is not sure.”
Theoretically, he had never crossed paths with Concubine Xiao. At most, they might be a bit related because of the Crown Princess’ selection.
He took the box and opened it. Inside sat a string of pearls. It was a priceless piece of jewelry painstakingly made by the main wife of Marquis Yuanbo. It was a very time-consuming craft which took her several years to complete. She died soon after it was finished. They'd been in Concubine Xiao's possession ever since. Who would have thought it would be offered as his daughter’s burial gift? Her sudden generosity was too suspicious!
“Accept the gift,” he said.
The housekeeper nodded, placed the box by the coffin, and turned back to his master.
“Concubine Xiao sends her condolences.”
“That is all?”
“This servant is just conveying her servant's words.”
It couldn’t be that simple! He grew uneasy. He rubbed his furrowed brows, heaved an immense sigh, and let himself be helped out of the altar.
The next morning, he had a cleansing bath in some holy water after his daughter's burial and headed for the palace. He bumped into Ji Li when he arrived at the palace gates. Ji Li’s expression turned extremely cold when he saw him. He came closer and spoke.
“Lord Liang. You've just finished burying your daughter, why rush back to the palace so soon? You should rest a few more days.” He was like a predator leering at its prey before eating it.
“Many thanks for your concerns, Secretary Ji, but this official is fine.”
“I'm glad to hear it,” Ji Li continued ominously, “Lord Liang is a smart man. You should know there are things that can and should be said, and things that shouldn’t, right?”
Minister Liang glanced at him sharply, “You need not beat around the bush!”
Ji Li did not bother with appearances since he'd been told he could drop his pretenses. He continued in a lower tone, his calm disposition unchanged.
“Miss Liang’s death was an accident. My younger sister will be the Crown Prince’s consort, so it would not be acceptable for Lord Liang to say anything inappropriate in front of His Majesty.”
An outright threat! Lord Liang had just lost his daughter! Why would he care about such trivial matters?! His disheveled face darkened as he snorted, “Secretary Ji need not worry. Although this official is rank is low, I have never strayed from the lines while serving His Majesty.”
“Good, then I have no need to hold you any longer!” Ji Li left, satisfied.
Minister Liang barely kept his hatred and fury in check. He would get his revenge, but the time was not right. Afterwards, he headed straight for Zhangzhi Hall.
Concubine Xiao had been waiting for him for a long time. She had two cups of tea sitting on the table. It had cooled down and been replaced once, twice, three times over before he finally arrived.
“This official pays his respects to Concubine Xiao!” He raised his hands in greeting.
Concubine Xiao was very friendly, but also showed a sympathetic look on her face.
“Please have a seat, Lord Liang,” she said as she motioned to the open chair.
Lord Liang kept his head lowered as he took the seat, a painful expression on his face.
“This Imperial One knows Lord Liang must be devastated by the loss of his daughter. I also watched Xu’er grow up. I didn’t take care of her too much, but I know she was a lovely child. It’s sad to see her depart in such a manner, but the dead can’t be revived. Lord Liang, you should take care not to tire yourself with grief. Your health is important too.”
A few tears threatened to run down her face as she finished her words.
Lord Liang balled his fists on his lap He slowly raised his eyes to look at Concubine Xiao. “Does Concubine Xiao have other matters to discuss?”
“It looks like Lord Liang understands this Imperial One’s intentions!”
“Your Ladyship has sent this official's daughter a precious burial gift. There must be something you would have this official do. If so, please speak your mind,” his voice was slightly husky - low but also frustrated.
Concubine Xiao took her time. She slowly pushed the teacup in front of Liang Zongzheng towards him, her eyes narrowing even further.
“I have heard the Ji family’s daughter, Ji Muqing, had something to do with Xu’er’s death. I also heard Secretary Ji and General Ji personally went to the capital's yamen and the previous witness changed her statement. Xu’er’s death was classified as an accident because of that, but no one can be certain whether this is true.”
Her roundabout words carried much deeper meaning.
His hatred grew as she spoke, but he maintained his calm appearance. “Since Your Ladyship knew this mere official was visiting, you should know my intentions. Your Ladyship can be straightforward,” he finally said.
Concubine Xiao rose from her seat, lifting her chin. Her gentle gaze turned savage.
“Xu’er was supposed to be the Crown Prince’s concubine, but that wretched Ji Muqing caused Xu’er’s tragic death. How could such a woman be the Crown Prince’s consort? How could she be fit to be the mother of the nation when the Crown Prince ascends to the throne? Lord Liang can not be satisfied with this outcome! The principal official in the selection of the Crown Prince’s consort is you, Lord Liang! If something were to go awry in the process, it would still be reasonable.”
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