Chapter 313 - Different Remains
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The disaster relief money? Concubine Xiao noted, “I understand.”
Jing Yi continued, “Several days ago, Imperial Father implicitly mentioned this in front of me and Jing Rong. Although he didn’t lay out his cards, this Son reckons that Imperial Father is considering choosing between Jing Rong and me to investigate this case in Yufu County.”
With that, Concubine Xiao was clear. She furrowed her brows, “Your Imperial Father is trying to avoid a war for the ascension of the throne and so he is trying to separate the two of you. Think of it as an exile … of sorts.”
“Imperial Mother is right.”
“What was your Imperial Father’s decision? Who did he choose?”
“He did not say, but this Son thinks he is waiting for either Jing Rong or me to volunteer willingly.” Qi Zhen Emperor, that old fox!
Concubine Xiao understood, “Your Imperial Father is no foolish man and would know who to pick - given your part in stopping Jing Hua’s rebellion, he should not send you to Yufu County. The court officials have also relayed their support for you with your recent acts - all these points towards the fact that the title of Crown Prince is only yours to lose.” Her own son was capable of becoming a ruler, much more so than Jing Rong, who currently wields much less influence than Jing Yi.
Jing Yi smirked, “If not for Imperial Mother’s scheme and had we not made use of Teacher Pan to encourage Jing Hua to rebel, then bribing Lord Zhang, things would not have gone this smoothly.”
Concubine Xiao wore a devious smile on her face as she stepped forward, “Since the Crown Prince has now fallen, once you marry the first-born daughter of the Ji Family and bring the Ji brothers to our side, the throne is yours sooner or later. Jing Rong is merely a toothless tiger.”
She sighed, “Poor Kong Yu, that young girl. This Concubine had her take the place of the first-born daughter of the Ji Family and marry Jing Hua, but even if he was demoted, she would still be the previous Crown Princess. His Majesty could promise her to someone else if he felt like it, but the foolish girl took her own life following in Jing Hua’s footsteps, poor thing.” What fake concern! Yet, from her tone, there had been a little sympathy for Kong Yu.
Jing Yi made no comment. He did not remain in Zhangzhi Hall for much longer and bumped into Jing Xuan as he left the hall. These siblings had drifted apart despite only spending several days away from each other; Jing Xuan did not look Jing Yi once in the eye and maneuvered her way around him into the hall.
“Stop right there!” Jing Yi proclaimed.
Jing Xuan stopped but did not look back, “Does Imperial Brother have something to say to me?”
“What’s wrong with you? Why the long face?”
“Is that so?” Jing Xuan laughed and turned around stiffly, “Why does Imperial Brother think I’m down? I can’t help but be happy now that First Brother is dead, and Imperial Brother would soon succeed his position and become the Emperor in the future - why would I be depressed?”
“Who spouted these nonsenses to you?”
“These are my own words.”
“Rubbish - as a princess, do you not know what should be and should not be said?” Jing Yi was obviously cross.
However, Jing Xuan’s smile gradually turned cold, and she sniffed as her eyes began to water. She clenched her jaw, “Imperial Brother is right - this sister obviously knows that, but how would this sister know that Imperial Brother could be so cruel that he could harm even his own kin. Who knows if I would also become a pawn in Imperial Brother’s plans some day, for my life and death is in your hands after all.”
It was clear what she meant - Jing Xuan had overheard their conversation. Jing Yi grabbed Jing Xuan, warning her guardedly, “Jing Xuan, what your Imperial Brother had to do was only all out of necessity, but I will protect you no matter what happens. You are not a pawn at all, do you understand me?”
Jing Xuan flung his arm away, backing up disgustedly, “What right do you have? From the very beginning, both you and Imperial Mother could sacrifice anyone for your own benefit; if weren’t for the two of you, Sister Yu would never have entered the palace, would never have been married off to First Brother, and she would never have died! It’s your fault - you caused her death.” Jing Xuan broke off, sobbing.
Jing Yi intended to reach out for Jing Xuan again, but she moved out of his grasp, her disgust now turning into anger, “I’m going to let Imperial Father know of everything that you and Imperial Mother have done!” She turned around, set to head for Fuyang Hall.
Before Jing Yi could respond, Concubine Xiao ordered, “Men, tie the princess up.” Yes, tie her up. Several eunuchs faithfully obeyed and stopped Jing Xuan in her tracks.
“Let me go, get your hands off me! I’m going to see Imperial Father!” She screamed, struggling against her captors.
Concubine Xiao trotted towards her, gently consoling, “Xuan’er, you should know better than anyone else that what Imperial Mother has done, is all for you and your Imperial Brother.”
“I don’t understand,” she screamed hysterically, “Imperial Mother, you killed Sister Yu! It was you and Imperial Brother who killed First Brother as well, I’m going to let Imperial Father know …”
Smack! Concubine Xiao slapped Jing Xuan so hard across the face that she almost fell over, blood trickling out of the corner of her mouth. Everyone present was shocked, least to say Jing Yi. Jing Xuan stopped struggling and shouting, turning her face wordlessly to one side.
Concubine Xiao’s hand was stinging as well, but she did not regret her actions, even declaring further, “Take the princess away. Without this Concubine’s decree, she is not to set one foot out of her chambers, or you will have to pay the price on her behalf.”
“Understood!” The eunuchs chimed fearfully, dragging the frozen Jing Xuan away.
As things settled, Jing Yi stepped forward, “Imperial Mother, this …”
“Fret not, I will not let Xuan’er see your Imperial Father.”
“This Son understands.” Jing Yi left assuredly.
Jing Rong headed straight for Bamboo Creek Garden upon leaving the palace. As soon as he entered the courtyard, he saw Ji Yunshu kneeling before an open coffin, muttering.
Jing Rong coughed, drawing her attention, “Have you finished your business?”
“You visited the Kong Estate?”
“Yes, and the portrait has been delivered to Madam Kong.”
Ji Yunshu nodded affirmatively.
Jing Rong approached her, wrinkling his nose as he got closer. He peeked into the coffin, only to see a set of white remains covered with some dark-coloured satin and mud, drenched in some unknown mucous. These bones did not look like one belonging to a man dead for fourteen years. Jing Rong asked puzzledly, “Why do these bones look different from the others?”
“They are different.”
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