Chapter 292 - Ji Yunshu, I'd Rather Die
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The East Palace was abuzz with activity; officials were presenting matrimonial gift after gift, each one dearer than the one before, while the palace maids, eunuchs and dancers were busy entertaining the guests at the reception, making sure each one was well-fed. As the Emperor and Concubine Xiao were both still ill after the fire, they were absent from the proceedings.
The Crown Prince, dressed in auspicious red garb, was standing in wait outside the East Palace gates, watching the sedan approach the estate. According to the matchmaker, Jing Hua first kicked the sedan door, before pulling back the drapes and grabbing onto the red tape to carefully escort the Crown Princess out, painting a picture perfect ceremony to the clanging of the cymbals and drums. The Crown Prince wore a humble smile throughout, bringing his own Crown Princess into the East Palace.
Their wedding played out according to tradition before the public eye, and eventually Kong Yu was helped into the inner chambers as she sat waiting on the bed for her husband to spend their first night together. Outside, however, the Crown Prince left the banquet hall after a round of toasts not to their newlywed chambers, but to an unused hall to the side of the East Palace.
His personal guards were all suited up, each one armed with a sword. On entering, Jing Hua ripped off his red robes, revealing yellow Crown Prince robes beneath, delicately embroidered with the dragon patterns only the Emperor could wear. “How is it?” Jing Hua asked.
The head of his personal guards bowed, “Everything is ready, we only await the Crown Prince’s orders.”
“We leave now.”
Jing Hua retrieved a sword from the shelves, but began to hesitate as he turned the sword over in his hand - this sword was one a younger Qi Zhen Emperor had won during his battles, and bequeathed upon himself. As he traced the patterned hilt, his steadfast attitude began to waver, until his guard reminded him, “Crown Prince, now is our best chance; it would be too late if we wait any longer.”
The Crown Prince was jolted from his reverie as he gripped the sword firmly in his hand, commanding, “Let’s move!”
In the busy East Palace, no-one was aware of the impending bloody storm about to sweep the empire!
With Lord Yu’s assistance, Jing Rong successfully entered the palace grounds in unassuming eunuch robes, sneakily making his way to the back gates of the East Palace from which he watched the Crown Prince and several guardsmen exit. As Jing Rong moved to stop his half-brother, he was pulled back abruptly. He turned back to see Ji Yunshu holding him tightly. She glanced towards the Crown Prince’s party, then shook her head at him, “You can’t go.”
Jing Rong was stunned, “What are you doing here?”
“I had Brother Lang look for you at the Supreme Court, but you weren’t there, so I thought that you might be here, so I asked him to help me into the palace.”
“If you knew that I would be here, then you should know what I want to do.”
“I know!” Ji Yunshu was sure, “There is no turning back for him - this is the Crown Prince’s own decision.”
Hearing this, Jing Rong shook Ji Yunshu off in disbelief, “Is this how you want to save me?”
“You let the Crown Prince ambush the palace and take the fall for the crimes I am falsely accused. What a great plan you have thought up!” Jing Rong was furious; he could not believe that Ji Yunshu would employ such means to save him.
Ji Yunshu flinched. She did her best to not let her emotions show and swallow her tears. She firmly repeated, “The Crown Prince’s rebellion is inevitable; even if not today, it would still happen later. I would do anything as long as I can save your life!”
Who was this stranger before him? Jing Rong was shocked speechless for a moment.
Ji Yunshu continued, “Prince Yi promised me that he would do what he could to save the Crown Prince’s life; it would be useless even if you went to stop him now.”
Jing Rong shuddered, “So you really have made a deal with Jing Yi. Ji Yunshu, tell me, if not for my initial suspicions, did you really think to keep this from me forever?”
Ji Yunshu could not refute his accusations; in Jing Rong’s eyes, she was the one who suggested to have the Crown Prince ambush the palace to Jing Yi in exchange for Jing Rong’s safety. He misunderstood her; this plan was long set in action by Jing Yi, and their real deal was her promise to leave Jing Rong and serve Prince Yi in exchange for Jing Rong’s safety?
As Ji Yunshu did not respond, Jing Rong pushed her aside, distancing from her in disappointment, “Ji Yunshu, if we have to sacrifice the Crown Prince’s life to save mine, I’d rather die.” He turned his back to her, wanting to chase after the Crown Prince.
She ran in front of him. Her eyes were brimming with tears. She spread out her arms to obstruct him.
“It’s too late - the Crown Prince’s army has already surrounded Fuyang Hall. Jing Rong, listen to me, quickly leave the palace. This no longer has anything to do with you; it’s between the Crown Prince and Prince Yi. Moreover, even if the Crown Prince ambushed the palace, His Majesty could never bear to kill him no matter how furious he would be, especially with Prince Yi pleading on his behalf; the Crown Prince would most likely only lose his position. You’re different - if there is no definitive evidence for the fire in Chengqing Hall, you would die for sure!” Ji Yunshu’s tears fell uncontrollably.
Her words were not unreasonable! Jing Hua was the Emperor’s favorite son, he would surely not bear to kill him despite the severity of his crimes! Jing Rong found the whole situation ludicrous. His disappointment slowly turned into heartache.
At that moment, several eunuchs began to head their way; if Jing Rong was discovered, he would be charged with breaking out of prison! Ji Yunshu was anxious. “Quick, leave the palace now. Once the trouble at Fuyang Hall gets out, the city gates will be locked and you will not be able to leave then.”
Jing Rong glanced at the group of eunuchs, then at Ji Yunshu. His smile grew cold, akin to a thorned flower in the darkest of the night. It stabbed her deeply insides.
“Ji Yunshu, remember this - tonight, it’s not just the Crown Prince who has made his choice. You also made yours.”
Jing Rong turned and left. His figure moved further and further away, leaving behind Ji Yunshu’s sobs, and then, his back vanished from her blurred sight...
Outside Fuyang Hall.
The East Palace guards surrounded the hall like an impenetrable fortress. Jing Hua stood outside the bedchamber, but he could not summon the courage to push open the embellished wooden doors. He placed his sword by the entrance, only ordering his men to open the doors as he received a bowl of medicine from his guards.
It was dark inside, with only two candles flickering weakly. Zhang Quan had just helped Qi Zhen Emperor from his bed to the mattress beside the heated boiler. Jing Hua approached them with the medicine. As his hands were trembling, a bit of the medicine spilled onto the floor. He placed the bowl down, paying his respects, “Imperial Father.”
Qi Zhen Emperor looked at him, “It’s your big day today, why are you here?”
“Son knows that Imperial Father is feeling under the weather, so I decided to come and have a look. I have specially prepared some medicine for you.”
Qi Zhen Emperor turned to look at the bowl. He had seen through Jing Hua’s intentions. He spat out a cold remark. “You didn’t have to.”
“This is what Son ought to do.”
“Jing Hua!” Qi Zhen called out feebly.
Jing Hua bowed once more, hands clasped in respect, “Son is present.”
Qi Zhen Emperor coughed. “Do you still recall what we said when we crowned you as Crown Prince?”
Grenn's Rants Corner
I guess the author found that their love (JY and JR) is growing too smoothly without any annoying cannon fodders interfering, so the author has bestowed upon them the ordeals of "values clash and a difference in priority."
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