Chapter 284 - The Crown Prince's Panic
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The East Palace.
The Crown Prince had not slept a wink all night, only briefly returning that morning to his own chambers for a brief nap before heading straight for Fuyang Hall, where he was stopped by a eunuch just outside the inner chambers, “Crown Prince, His Majesty has ordered that no one can enter without his permission.”
“Not even this Crown Prince?”
“This servant can only obey His Majesty’s orders.”
“Move aside, I want to see Imperial Father.”
That eunuch could not stop him in time; Jing Hua was about to push the doors open when someone exited the room, the two of them almost colliding. Old Eunuch Zhang, who served at the Emperor’s side, bowed, “This servant pays his respects to the Crown Prince.”
“This Crown Prince wants to see Imperial Father,” Jing Hua was unabashedly straightforward.
“His Majesty is waiting for you inside.”
Jing Hua rushed in, overjoyed. Old Eunuch Zhang did not follow, shutting the doors from the outside.
Upon seeing Qi Emperor lying on the bed, Jing Hua’s eyes reddened. He immediately fell to his knees and kowtowed, crying out in anguish, “This son is too useless, letting Imperial Father get hurt, causing Imperial Father to lie sick in bed!” What a display! All that was left was for him to cry tears of sorrow.
Qi Emperor coughed, sitting himself up at the edge of the bed. He looked at Jing Hua who was still kneeling at his bedside, “This Emperor is not yet dead, what are you crying for?”
Not dead? Why not! Jing Hua quickly rose and wiped his tears away, asking his own Imperial Father concernedly, “Imperial Father, how are you feeling? This son has been so worried that I kept vigil outside all night.”
“This Emperor understands your concern.”
“Thank goodness Imperial Father is alright, otherwise this son would have no idea what to do!” As he spoke, his eyes reddened once more!
Qi Emperor was still very weak and barely had the strength to speak. He coughed a few times before continuing, “Jing Hua, this Emperor wants to ask you, what is your duty as the Crown Prince?”
“Imperial Father gave this son the title of Crown Prince in the hopes that this son would be just like you; to rule wisely, to become a learned man, to bring fortune to the people of the Great Lin.”
“Can you achieve all these things?”
“This son knows that he has worried Imperial Father immensely, but this son promises to achieve it all.” Jing Hua spoke confidently, but his inner voice spoke otherwise. Was Imperial Father trying to test him? Was he considering relieving him of his title?
Oh please, Child, you are thinking too much. Qi Zhen Emperor was not quite satisfied with his answer, but neither was he too disappointed, “Jing Hua, Imperial Father is also getting old; this Great Lin must someday be handed over to someone else.”
Give it to me, to me! Jing Hua’s eyes lit up as he listened on intently.
“You have grown up by this Emperor’s side; no one knows you better than this Emperor does - you are too carefree, never putting in any extra thought towards any matter. It’s because of this that this Emperor is concerned that you will not have anyone you trust by your side.”
“This son understands Imperial Father’s worries.”
“Your marriage can be dragged on no longer. The firstborn daughter of the Ji Family has fallen ill and cannot be chosen as the Crown Princess, therefore this Emperor has chosen someone else for you.”
“Who may that be?”
Jing Hua was stunned speechless upon hearing those two syllables. He quickly digested the news, asking, “Imperial Father, how could Kong Yu be the Crown Princess? Didn’t Imperial Father say that you seeked to gather some power and forces for this son? The Kong Family has long since fallen, Kong Yu…”
“The Kong Family has indeed fallen, but this was a decision made after this Emperor’s careful consideration. I have ordered Han Academy to move matters along.”
“Imperial Father…” Jing Hua fell ashen.
Qi Emperor knew he was anxious, so he continued, “The Kong Family is your Imperial Mother’s family, even if they have fallen, they still hold some power comparable to the Ji Family. This matter is set in stone; prepare well for your wedding. This Emperor is not feeling well at the moment, as such, Han Academy will handle everything.”
Even though he was reluctant to, Jing Hua replied, “This son understands.”
“That’s enough, you may leave now. This Emperor would like to rest.”
“Understood!” Jing Hua stepped aside, bowed and left. From start to finish, Qi Zhen had not once mentioned that Jing Hua had not come to his aid but rather escaped during the fire. It was so that Jing Hua was additionally nervous; it was as if there was an itch on his body that he could never reach, how uncomfortable! As the doors closed behind him, Jing Hua’s filial facade immediately dropped.
When he arrived at the East Palace, Jing Hua ordered for his men to invite his own teacher, Teacher Pan Chong. This white-haired Pan Chong did not serve the court, but was a scholar and teacher who had taught Jing Hua to read and write since he was young. Although he was just a scholar, he was quite politically aware. For example, swapping and presenting Jing Yi’s gift as his own at His Majesty’s birthday banquet last year was not something the idiot Crown Prince could come up with; this was entirely Pan Chong’s plan.
Jing Hua was practically splayed over his study desk in nervousness, asking worriedly, “Teacher, what should we do? The first person Imperial Father saw after waking up last night was not Jing Yi but me. I escaped by myself in the fire last night right in front of Imperial Father’s eyes, but Imperial Father just mentioned to me that he wanted to crown Kong Yu as the Crown Princess, which pushes the Ji Family and their strength away from me. Tell me, Teacher, does Imperial Father… wish to crown another Crown Prince?”
Unlike Jing Hua, Pan Chong was extremely calm. He pondered before asking, “Has the Crown Prince heard any news? Especially about His Majesty crowning another Crown Prince?”
“That I haven’t, but I can’t help but worry. Imperial Father has just asked me, ‘what is your role as a Crown Prince?’. With questions like these that come out of nowhere, for no reason - how could I not worry?”
“Don’t fret, Crown Prince!” Pan Chong began to scheme, “His Majesty meeting Prince Yi separately means nothing at present; it could be regarding other matters. What’s more, it’s perfectly normal for His Majesty to select a different Crown Princess for you now that the firstborn daughter of the Ji Family has fallen ill.”
“Teacher’s words are not wrong, but…” Jing Hua let out a great sigh, “I just cannot figure out what Imperial Father wants!”
Pan Chong had something in mind, “Dare I ask if the Crown Prince knows who His Majesty’s closest aide is?”
Jing Hua frowned, “Concubine Xiao?”
“It’s that Eunuch Zhang who serves at His Majesty’s side.”
“Zhang Quan?” Jing Hua slapped his thigh in revelation, “Yes, Teacher is right - Zhang Quan has been by Imperial Father’s side ever since Imperial Grandfather was alive, so he is Imperial Father’s most trusted aide. But why is Teacher suddenly interested in him?”
Although Pan Chong had the make of a trueborn scholar, his scheming eyes betrayed his conniving and devious nature. He spoke, “As you know, walls have ears; if His Majesty were really to crown a new Crown Prince, then the first one to know must be that Eunuch Zhang. Why not try to pry some information out of him, Crown Prince? Everything will be clear then.”
Jing Hua was ecstatic with his newfound clarity, but also worried. He nodded, “There is no doubt. That old fox must surely know.”
Grenn's Rants Corner
A new character to stir more troubles.
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