Chapter 288 - The Crown Prince's Ascension
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Once the carriage regained its stability, Shi Zijin poked her head out to assess the situation - a little girl had rushed out onto the road accidentally, but fortunately, the stableman had managed to stop the carriage in time. That little girl bent over to pick up her doll in the drizzle, making a few gestures towards the stableman which he could not understand.
“She says that she’s sorry,” Shi Zijin translated.
When the stableman finally comprehended, that little child was already long gone. Ji Yunshu was surprised, “You understand sign language?”
Shi Zijin nodded, “Yes, I had learned a little when I was young.”
Ji Yunshu suddenly recalled the gestures that Lie’er had made to herself in the city tower and she tried to replicate them from memory, asking Shi Zijin, “What do these mean?”
Between all the inaccuracies of her gestures, Shi Zijin took some time to decipher them, “It should mean ‘kill’ or ‘murder’.”
Murder? Ji Yunshu continued with a second gesture, “What about this one?”
“This means ‘someone else’,” Shi Zijin answered.
Murder? Someone else? What does it all mean? What was Lie’er trying to tell her back there? Ji Yunshu recalled that Lie’er was extremely anxious as he tried to communicate, but what could be linked to the words ‘murder’ and ‘kill’? She fell into deep thought momentarily; even when they arrived at Bamboo Creek Garden, she kept herself locked in her quarters, not mentioning a single word about Jing Rong or the Imperial Prison, as if waiting for something astonishing to happen…
The Imperial Palace.
Zhang Quan left the Emperor’s private chambers and headed for the kitchens to personally order some food for His Majesty. As soon as he stepped out of Fuyang Hall, he was stopped by a low-ranking eunuch, “Eunuch Zhang, the Crown Prince is waiting for you in the East Palace.”
The Crown Prince wants to see me? Although he was just a eunuch, Zhang Quan had lived for many years within this treacherous grounds as was more astute than others; he asked no further questions and followed the other eunuch to East Palace.
The entire East Palace was abuzz with preparations for the Crown Prince’s wedding in three days, adorned with lush and lavish decorations. Zhang Quan entered the main hall where the Crown Prince was already sitting in wait, “Come, Eunuch Zhang, sit with this prince.” The Crown Prince looked extremely pleased, welcoming Eunuch Zhang with a large, annoying smile.
Eunuch Zhang bowed, “This servant greets the Crown Prince.”
“Forget the formalities, there is no-one else around.”
He wanted to sit Eunuch Zhang by his side, but Zhang Quan quickly stepped back, remarking, “This old servant is but a servant, how can he sit alongside his master? This old servant will remain standing.”
The Crown Prince could not convince him. He quickly moved on and ordered a pot of fine tea to be presented, followed by several exquisite sweets, as if he were serving someone of much higher status than himself, “It must have been too hard on Eunuch Zhang, serving alongside Imperial Father all these years.”
Zhang Quan bowed once more, “To be able to serve at His Majesty’s side is this old servant’s fortune.”
“This Crown Prince is very reassured. You have, after all, looked after Imperial Father all these years.” The Crown Prince quickly questioned, “How is Imperial Father’s health? What have the imperial physicians said?”
Zhang Quan replied calmly, “The imperial physicians have visited twice - His Majesty’s health is no longer in danger. The Crown Prince need not fret.”
Jing Hua placed a hand on his chest, heaving a sigh of relief, “That’s good. Oh, then, has Imperial Father seen Prince Yi again since?”
“No,” Zhang Quan bowed again, “Dare this old servant ask what needs the Crown Prince has of this old one?”
Jing Hua flashed a mysterious smile, tapping lightly on his study. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, focusing his gaze on Zhang Quan, “It isn’t anything important. All this Crown Prince wanted was to ask Eunuch Zhang: What did Imperial Father and Prince Yi discuss then when they met alone?”
“This old servant does not know!”
“You don’t know? How could you not know?”
Zhang Quan answered truthfully, “His Majesty spoke with Prince Yi alone; this old servant genuinely hasn’t a clue what they discussed.”
Jing Hua did not stop as he questioned further, “Then has Imperial Father met with other ministers of the court?”
“That has not happened either.” Every question was met with a rebuttal!
Jing Hua grew slightly anxious, his complexion much paler than before. He walked towards Zhang Quan, who had his head lowered throughout this exchange, saying, “Eunuch Zhang, this Crown Prince will be blunt with you then. Has Imperial Father ever mentioned anything about the position of Crown Prince to you?” Essentially, has he ever mentioned his intentions to crown a new Crown Prince? Pan Chong had intended for him to pry information slyly out of Zhang Quan, but Jing Hua had just ruined his plans!
Zhang Quan was not surprised, however, his calm demeanour unwavering. He remarked, “The Crown Prince has been brought up by His Majesty’s side since you were young; His Majesty has always had high hopes for you, wishing that the Crown Prince would be morally upright, loved by the people, and especially for the Crown Prince to be a learned man, capable of sharing his worries much like Prince Yi.”
Just like Prince Yi? The corners of Jing Hua’s mouth twitched slightly, “This Crown Prince understands Imperial Father’s wishes, but what is Eunuch Zhang trying to imply?”
“This old servant is but a servant; there are some words that should not be said, but since the Crown Prince has asked, this old servant will be frank as well. All these years, the Crown Prince has enjoyed the comforts and protection of the palace but three years ago, when the floods at Jiangnan and the drought at Weibei occurred, His Majesty wanted to give the Crown Prince a chance to prove yourself when he handed over the matter to you. The Crown Prince could not resolve it, but Prince Yi only spent a mere three months to accomplish what you had not achieved. This old servant has mentioned this matter to His Majesty many times, praising Prince Yi’s actions.”
Although Zhang Quan was beating around the bush, bringing up the flood and drought of three years ago, his true intentions were clear as day! Jing Hua was not so much of an idiot that he did not pick up on Zhang Quan’s veiled threats; His Majesty must really be preparing for the succession of a new Crown Prince.
As the Crown Prince did not respond, Zhang Quan gave a curt bow, “This old servant must still visit the kitchens to prepare some tea for His Majesty and will take his leave.” Jing Hua could care less.
Pan Chong arrived after Zhang Quan had left, and Jing Hua recounted word for word the news he had just heard. “What should we do, Teacher? If this is true, then--” Jing Hua slammed a fist onto his desk in a fit of anger.
Pan Chong pondered, muttering as he gathered his thoughts, “In this time and age, the Crown Prince’s influence is equally matched with Prince Yi’s, but Prince Yi has Concubine Xiao behind him. What’s more, Prince Yi saved His Majesty from the fire at Chengqing Hall, but His Majesty has now ordered for the Crown Prince to marry Princess Huiwen whose maiden family has neither power nor status… All these signs indicate that the Crown Prince is at a disadvantage; if His Majesty were to crown a new successor, that wouldn’t be impossible…”
“How is that acceptable? How is Jing Yi qualified to be the Crown Prince?”
A terrifying idea popped into Pan Chong’s mind, “If the Crown Prince wants to be the next Emperor in this current climate, then there is only one way.”
“What is it?”
“The only way is for the Crown Prince to ascend to the throne before His Majesty can crown a new Crown Prince!”
Grenn's Rants Corner
Starting next week, we're going to do 5 chapters per week until we reached the 300th chapter. ^__^
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