Chapter 296 - Red Veil
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Look for Pan Chong? The guard replied staunchly, “First Prince, it’s better if you stay put in the East Palace. His Majesty has ordered your imprisonment here; you’re not to leave the East Palace nor is anyone allowed in.”
Addressing him as ‘First Prince’ was not unusual since he was stripped of his position, and since he had not been conferred any other titles, he could only be addressed as such. Jing Hua, however, had not heard this for over ten years. “I am the Crown Prince. Imperial Father would never treat me like this. Quick, summon Teacher Pan. Go, quickly!”
The guards looked at each other, proclaiming firmly, “His Majesty’s orders cannot be defied!” With that, they pushed Jing Hua inside, locking the gates from outside, placing him effectively under house arrest.
Jing Hua stumbled backwards, bumping into a pillar. His legs gave way, and he fell to the floor as if he were drunk…
A bloody storm swept across the entire palace. Qi Zhen Emperor lied on his sickbed one foot in the grave. The once festive East Palace and what remained of the Crown Prince’s faction was wiped out in a blink of an eye once news from Fuyang Hall got out. Except for several eunuchs and palace maids, no-one else survived.
In the newlywed chambers.
Kong Yu heard the ongoing commotion outside: the clanging of swords, tragic screaming, and the sound of blood sputtering over the palace grounds… She bowed her head, her calm gaze blocked by that blood-red veil, embroidered with lifelike mandarin ducks playing in the waters. A cold wind whistled through the open window, blowing off her wedding veil, and she sat there staring at the red veil for a very long time.
Just then, someone pushed open the doors, screaming out, “Bad news, Princess!” Kong Yu looked up to see her personal servant, Juan’er. Juan’er wiped her tears away and fell to Kong Yu’s feet anxiously, “The Crown Prince has staged a rebellion, ambushing the palace and turning against the Emperor. His Majesty has ordered the death all those involved, and the Crown Prince has been placed under house arrest at the East Palace.” Her words were empathetic towards the Crown Prince and sorry towards Kong Yu.
In contrast, Kong Yu was as calm as she could be, “When did all these happen?”
“Just two hours ago.”
“Who was there to save His Majesty?”
“Then, other than ambushing the palace and forcing His Majesty’s abdication, what else did the Crown Prince do?”
“The fire at Chengqing Hall was also the Crown Prince’s doing.”
On hearing Juan’er’s last answer, Kong Yu’s heart finally settled. If the Crown Prince were to bear this responsibility, then, Jing Rong could safely leave the prison. She asked again, “How is His Majesty now?”
Juan’er replied, bursting into tears, “This servant heard that His Majesty had fainted, but the imperial physicians have already rushed over.”
Kong Yu stroked Juan’er’s little head, smiling, “Poor Juan’er, you’ve been by my side ever since you were young. If I had known something like this would happen today, I would have never brought you into the palace with me. No, I shouldn’t have brought you back to the Capital with me, back when we were still living at Emerald Retreat. You need not be trapped in the Capital now nor the palace. It’s all my fault. I’m really sorry.”
Juan’er wiped her tears away, shaking her head fervently, “To have served Your Highness from young is Juan’er’s fortune. No matter what happens, I will not leave Princess, and will stay by your side forever.”
“Silly girl, why should you? If you can leave the palace, leave. This palace is not fit for the living in the first place.”
“Listen to me. Leave the palace. I will also think of something and try to send you out.”
Despite Juan’er’s disagreement, Kong Yu’s heart was set. She took a deep breath and got up from the bed, her beautiful silhouette enhanced by the candlelight. She walked towards the open window and shut it before walking out into the chaotic courtyard, her calm composure not once wavering.
Rain began to fall, drop after drop wetting her shoulders and face. An unreadable smile spread across her face. Her slender fingers balled up into fists beneath her ceremonial robes - at this moment, she was fully prepared. She was prepared to deliver on the promise she had made to herself, one that she had made before she was married into the East Palace.
Bamboo Creek Garden, within the darkest and eeriest of the night.
Jing Rong’s words were still echoing in Ji Yunshu’s mind ever since she left the palace, ‘it’s not just the Crown Prince who made his choice, but you also made yours’. She knew that she had made a mistake, but it was one she was willing to make in exchange for Jing Rong’s life. She heaved a deep sigh as she looked towards the palace, flustered and worried.
Shi Zijin asked her, “Why didn’t you tell Prince Rong?”
She shook her head and smiled, “We can’t tell him.”
“Why not? If you told him, I’m sure his Highness would understand.”
“Then can you understand?” Ji Yunshu countered. Shi Zijin could not answer.
Ji Yunshu continued, “I can’t tell him, because he knows I can choose to look for and present the evidence proving that Old General Li committed those crimes, but I can’t! For that missing heir, for the ten thousand soldiers, this is a choice I simply cannot make. Moreover, we don’t have solid proof. I have no other choice but to strike that deal with Prince Yi.”
She felt helpless.
Jing Rong returned to the Supreme Court Prison after making his way out of the palace. From the moment he arrived, he sat on a mat with his gaze pointed downwards, fists tightly clenched, eyes without a clear focus. It was as if a single touch would push him over the edge; he was uncharacteristically quiet, too quiet! For so many years, he never sought for power, but tonight, he understood how wrong he was - the more he wanted to escape, the more he was trapped in the same place.
Although Qi Zhen Emperor was weak from the shock, his body was not in bad shape, but the imperial physicians did not dare to leave and kept a continuous roster. Jing Yi also kept watch through the night. Qi Zhen Emperor only woke up as dawn broke, and he called out for Jing Yi to stand before him.
“Imperial Father, speak; this son is present.” He was nervous.
Qi Zhen Emperor narrowed his eyes and tried to mouth a couple of words. He finally eked out, “Release Jing Rong.”
Hmph, you still remember Jing Rong even in this situation, what a doting father. Jing Yi replied, “Yes, this son understands.”
Only then did Qi Zhen Emperor close his eyes.
Grenn's Rants Corner
Character development! Shift of paradigm! Despite how he makes himself sound impulsive, in the end, he didn't jump in front of Jing Yi to save anyone. He understood he can't do jackshit in this situation because he had no power or influence to change the situation.
I wonder how Jing Rong will change and how his relationship with Ji Yunshu will be affected.
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