Chapter 274 - The Decline of the Kong Family
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The Imperial Prison.
Gao Bingze had been imprisoned for no more than four hours when several officials dragged him out from his cell, fastening him to a wooden pillar with heavy metal chains. As Gao Bingze had not fully regained consciousness, they doused him with a bucket of cold water. Gao Bingze was splashed awake and he struggled against his restraints screaming, “I want to see Lord Liang.”
“See Lord Liang?” The official sneered, holding a red-hot iron in his hand, “Secretly swapping the shortlist for Crown Princess, you, Vice-director Gao have committed a serious crime. Her Ladyship has decreed for you to be beaten to death.”
“What?” Concubine Xiao did not mention anything about him spending a night with Ji Muqing, but rather decided to push the crime of swapping the Crown Princess shortlist onto him. Wasn’t this matter already resolved with fining the entire Han Academy half a year’s salary? Who knew that Concubine Xiao was lying in wait here with this trump card up her sleeve. “I request an audience with His Majesty - I have been wronged!”
“You can only meet King Yama.”
The official branded him with that red-hot iron, white smoke fuming from his skin. Gao Bingze broke out in a sweat and almost fainted from the pain; as a scholar, how could he withstand such torture? The other two officials readied their wooden paddles, beating him in turn.
How unfair! Gao Bingze shrieked, “Why?” The sounds of the wooden paddles accompanied his tragic screams. Until today, he wasn’t sure what he had done wrong? Who did he offend? Who was the mastermind behind all of this?
Minister Liang was expressionless as he stood hidden outside the torture chamber. He only revealed himself when Gao Bingze’s screams began to die down, almost stopping the two officials carrying out his sentence.
Gao Bingze was held up solely by metal chains, his flesh ripped apart by countless bloody wounds, head hanging low, hair amess! A hazy pair of shoes appeared in his sight, and he painfully raised his head to look at Lord Liang standing in front of him. Gao Bingze opened and closed his mouth in disbelief, questioning, “Why?”
Minister Liang remained stoic, pulling out a piece of paper from his sleeve and flattening it out for Gao Bingze to read, “As long as you sign this, this official will ensure the safety of your entire family!” This was a written confession - one that would confirm Gao Bingze’s crime of swapping the Crown Princess shortlist!
Unexpectedly, Gao Bingze laughed bitterly, blood flowing out from his mouth. His breaths were shallow and weak as he asked once more, “Why?”
“Bingze, you have served Han Academy for about a year now. In the past year, you have been an immense help to this official, but this time, you have to die. Because only with your death comes your eternal silence. It’s this official’s fault, if you have any resentment after death, come for this official and this official only. I am truly sorry.” Minister Liang was calm throughout. He held Gao Bingze’s hand and covered his thumb with blood, leaving a clear thumbprint on the written confession before handing it over to the official waiting beside him, “Present this to His Majesty - just say that Vice-director Gao has recognised the heniousity of his crime and decided to commit suicide in repentance.”
“Yes!” The officials answered in unison. Gao Bingze did not have any strength left to struggle, lest speak, as he watched all these unfold before his eyes helplessly.
As Minister Liang was leaving, he turned back to face Gao Bingze, “Don’t worry. This official will take good care of your family and ensure that they will not go hungry nor cold. Rest in peace.”
The cell began to echo with the sounds of wooden paddles against bare flesh, falling silent only when Gao Bingze had been successfully beaten to death! The gust of wind blowing through the palace also seemed to calm down, as if nothing ever happened…
That same day, news that the first-born daughter of the Ji Family had been isolated due to sickness spread from Chuxiu Palace. Her condition was said to be contagious; as the news spread, the rumours got further and further away from the truth - this was no more than Concubine Xiao’s ploy to make sure Ji Muqing could not participate in the Crown Princess selection.
This turn of events, however, had the Emperor falling into a dilemma. With the prearranged Crown Princess falling ill, all the initial plans were now moot; without the selected Crown Princess, then - who should they crown? His Majesty naturally summoned Minister Liang in a hurry.
Qi Zhen Emperor sat on his dragon throne, troubled, “The Crown Princess must be selected tomorrow, why has such a thing happened now, and what has she fallen ill to?”
Minister Liang raised his fists in greeting, “The Young Miss of the Ji Family’s face and legs had all swollen up. The Imperial Physician said that it was an infection which was probably contagious and must be treated carefully and slowly, therefore she was sent out of the palace back to the General’s Estate.”
Qi Zhen Emperor sighed as he pondered, head propped up on his armrest, “Then in Minister Liang’s opinion, what should we do about this matter regarding the Crown Princess?”
“The Young Miss of the Ji Family hasn’t contracted some incurable disease, so if we push back the matter of the Crown Princess selection just a little…”
He was interrupted by Qi Zhen Emperor before he could even finish, “Impossible! The official selection date has already been finalised and cannot be changed!” Attitude steadfast, Qi Zhen Emperor shoved his throne back as he stood up, questioning Lord Liang sternly, “Who else is suitable for the position of Crown Princess in your opinion?”
Minister Liang had expected this of His Majesty and he pretended to be vexed by this question, only answering after a few moments, “It would not be difficult to pick someone from amongst all the talented young ladies from the various families. However, if we were to consider family roots and background, none of them would compare to the Young Miss from the Ji Family. This official does have a person in mind, but…”
“Princess Huiwen!” Minister Liang answered.
Qi Zhen Emperor’s eyes narrowed, “Huiwen? Why her?”
“In this servant’s humble opinion, Princess Huiwen is a descendent of the late Empress’s family; when Her Majesty was alive, the Kong Family had some status within the court and held several positions within the military and civil departments, but since Her Majesty’s passing, the Kong Family seemed to have fallen into decline. Kong Qu, who used to be at the forefront of the Great Lin’s forces, asked to leave the Capital for Yi in the far south-west. Although it seems as though he has been isolated from power and authority, he now holds the title of city governor with control over the whole city. What’s more important is that Yi is an important stronghold if Huyi were to enter our gates; as the attack on a nation begins with attacking its cities, Yi naturally is crucial. Another man to be wary of is Kong Shenyi, who was the late Empress’s younger cousin. Although he has long hung up his official robes and returned to his hometown, he owns a fleet of elite troops and horses in Han Province. If Princess Huiwen were to become the Crown Princess, then the stronghold in Yi and the fleets in Han Province would fall into Your Majesty’s hands. If so, then besides that Young Miss Ji, Princess Huiwen is the most suitable candidate, more so than the other ladies!” Each word was delivered with the utmost sincerity.
In reality, Lord Liang’s words were not unreasonable! It was true that the Kong Family had fallen from grace, with the officials all leaving the Capital; at first glance it seemed as though they had left the center of power, but they had also scattered mines in all directions! If the Capital falls, then the Kong Family scattered in all parts of the Great Lin would assume an advantageous formation. If not for Minister Liang mentioning these today, Qi Zhen Emperor would have never felt the threat of these hidden influences, given that the Kong Family kept such a low profile.
As anger bubbled within him, Qi Zhen Emperor gathered his thoughts. He nodded gently and waved his hand, “Leave first, this Emperor will consider.”
Minister Liang eyed Qi Zhen Emperor’s gaze, then bowed and disappeared. As soon as he exited Fuyang Hall, he sent a messenger to Zhangzhi Hall: Everything was presented to His Majesty as Concubine Xiao had instructed.
Grenn's Rants Corner
Blimey! Gao Bingze is a true cannon fodder. T^T May you rest in peace or reincarnate with a better fate.
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