What would Rui’er choose?
Han Yunxi bet that he’d pick detoxifying needles, while Long Feiye guessed a treasured sword. The loser would have to eat noodles cooked by the winner.
Gu Beiyue bet that Rui’er would take a stamp, while Gu Qishao judged him to pick an abacus. The loser would act as a servant to the winner for one day.
Tang Li figured Rui’er would go for the volumes of classic scriptures, while Ning Jing figured he’d prefer the coins. Whoever won would wrest control of their finances.
Rui’er had no idea three bets were running on him at the same time. He stood there for a long, long time in careful thought. Faced with so many choices, this really was difficult! He wanted many different things, but he could only pick one. He grabbed at his fingers as he grew more conflicted, extending the tension of the courtiers below. The gifts were given and the banquet eaten, so everything would be over after this raffle, right? 80 percent of the guests wanted the banquet done as soon as possible! As long as that was finished, they could truly believe the emperor and empress wouldn’t go after them for their smears or punishments.
At last, Rui’er reached out his hand!
The crowd collectively exhaled in relief as they saw a glimmer of hope! Long Feiye, Han Yunxi and the rest all tensed as they waited for the outcome of their bets. All eyes were on Rui’er in the silent hall as he curved his fingers around a stamp and picked it up!
Gu Beiyue revealed an extremely self-satisfied smile even as Gu Qishao’s mood plummeted. Han Yunxi, Long Feiye, Tang Li, and Ning Jing neither won nor lost and were very disappointed.
“As expected, you are Zhen’s chosen prince! Heheh, this is Heaven’s will! Heaven’s will cannot be defied!” Long Feiye proclaimed loudly. “Rui’er, come here!”
Although the traditional one-year-old raffle was supposed to predict a child’s future, Long Feiye’s group placed no basis on such claims. Rui’er grabbing the stamp wouldn’t convince all the courtiers to accept him as future emperor someday. That was just naive. Long Feiye picked him up and sat him on his lap. This was a greater move than any selection of a seal! He was showing the crowd how much he doted on Rui’er and expected from him!
It was a gross breach of etiquette for a crown prince to sit upon the throne himself, but if Long Feiye placed him there as the emperor, it was adoration of the highest order! The ministers were stunned as they realized he’d put on this show on purpose.
Once the raffle items were cleared away, everyone’s hearts settled somewhat in their chests. Now they waited for the emperor to announce the banquet was over. But it was then that a eunuch rushed in with a fearful face.
“Your Majesty, it’s terrible! Bad news!” the eunuch crowed as he finished his bow.
“Speak clearly!” Long Feiye demanded.
Han Yunxi was even more furious. “I won’t forgive you for speaking nonsense at the crown prince’s birthday banquet unless it’s a serious matter!”
“Your Majesty, Esteemed Empress, those commoners causing trouble are fighting with the guards and trying to rush the palace gates!” the eunuch cried.
Baili Lixiang felt her heart turn cold. Hadn’t she already ordered someone to spread the latest news? Why hadn’t the protesters stopped yet? Baili Yuanlong immediately gave her a look as father and daughter remained speechless.
Long Feiye’s voice turned cold. “Are they planning to rebel? The banquet isn’t even over yet. How did the rabble learn of the empress’s ‘extravagant expenses?’”
No one dared to answer him in the quiet hall. The Baili and Xiao Clans knew exactly what had incited the protests, while the others had mingled in the court long enough to smell the scent of a plot. Like the emperor said, the banquet had yet to end, so how could the commoners know what was going on? Moreover, they hadn’t started protesting now, but just after General Baili stood out to dissuade the empress.
How come anything happen so timely?
Those with a guilty conscience dared not speak, while those whose hearts were clear stayed mute. They were afraid of offending a random Guogong with their words without knowing the full situation first. Baili Yuanlong had sweat pouring down him like rain. He finally realized that there was no way Han Yunxi would let them off. She was waiting for the mob to make an even bigger racket! After all, he could still make excuses if she accused him of slander, but evidence of a mob meant severe consequences against the Baili Clan if she got to the bottom of their uprising!
Baili Lixiang subconsciously pressed a hand against her heart. It was currently pounding wildly in her chest, making it difficult to breathe. She felt as if her heart would burst out of her chest. She never thought things would devolve to such a devastating state! She originally assumed that the commoners would exert a certain amount of pressure on the emperor who treasured their hearts. But now the incident had become fatal for the Baili Clan.
His Majesty would definitely find a few racketeers and kill them, as killing chickens scared monkeys into behaving! Baili Lixiang could only pray that the leaders she’d found wouldn’t sell her out!
At last, she couldn’t bear it and spoke out. “Your Majesty, Esteemed Empress, there were rumors of the empress holding the crown prince’s birthday banquet even before today. I believe those commoners have misunderstood you and acted in ignorance. They can’t mean it, so please don’t let them disturb your good mood, Esteemed Empress.”
Han Yunxi looked over with a cold smile flashing in her eyes. Baili Lixiang’s mouth ingratiated her to others even better than Baili Mingxiang, but she didn’t like it one bit! With a signal from her eye, the eunuch spoke again. “To report to Your Majesty, those protesters somehow got word that the empress was giving everyone a full set of tableware for the birthday banquet tonight, and that each table was holding thousands of silver’s worth of—”
Bang! Long Feiye slapped the table before he finished!
In a flash, everyone sucked in their breaths in absolute silence! It only lasted a second before the Xiao Clan Head Xiao An stood out first. “Your Majesty, please calm your anger!”
All of the officials returned to their senses and started feeling fear. They haphazardly rose to their feet and knelt down to chorus, “Your Majesty, please calm your anger! Please calm your rage!”
How could they not be terrified? This was too, too big! The banquet was still ongoing and nobody had left, including the servants, but those commoners already knew what was happening. It was obvious someone had leaked the intel to stir up the crowd and mastermind the entire scheme. Inciting the people to accuse the empress and blacken the birthday banquet was a far more serious crime than personal slander! Comparing the two crimes side by side was a joke!
Baili Lixiang and Baili Yuanlong had completely lost their wits. It wasn’t until Baili Qiyu reminded them that they joined the crowd in kneeling down.
“F-father,” Baili Lixiang stammered. She couldn’t even finish her sentence.
She had been counter-schemed! The entire Baili Clan had been tricked! After all, she might have used the common people and leaked out information, but she wasn’t stupid enough to tell them about the tableware and all its other intimate details! Who had done it instead? Someone from the Xiao Clan, or Han Yunxi herself?
Baili Lixiang didn’t have time to think, while Baili Yuanlong’s mind was completely blank. He could only hope the people they bribed didn’t betray them! Definitely not!
But Long Feiye only said coldly, “Someone come, capture those rioters for Zhen immediately. Don’t leave a single one out! If we can’t interrogate answers out of them by tonight, no one will think of stepping a foot out of Zhen’s banquet hall!”
Baili Lixiang’s heart all but topped, while Baili Yuanlong was already swaying on his knees. He couldn’t even kneel properly.
“Just bring them here for the interrogation! I’d like to ask them whether they think I’m worthy of being empress!” Han Yunxi added icily.
So many people here had drank her chicken soup tonight, but how many of them would truly get her meaning? Why did she prepare a whole chicken soup and not duck soup or some other stew? Was it really because Zhao mama had raised too many hens to eat?
This was the living example of the idiom “killing a chicken to warn the monkeys!” Tonight, she was reminding them of just that! If she couldn’t find a fine example to deal with later, would these people treat her empress title as a joke?
Actually, her original plan was to simply hold a banquet and solicit donations from the various wealthy officials for the disaster relief efforts. These could be sent under Rui’er’s name and count as a gift from his parents. But the Baili and Xiao Clans had objected as soon as she raised the topic of a banquet. Thus, she simply spread word that it would be big and grand! If she didn’t use this chance to teach the Baili and Xiao Clans a lesson, these two mighty powers of Great Qin would only act more wantonly in the future!
Thus, she found Mu Linger to help line her feast of traps. She figured the rioters outside were most likely bribed by the Baili and Xiao Clans, though she couldn’t guess who belonged to which faction. Baili Lixiang’s behavior had more or less cemented her suspicion that the Baili Clan were the true masterminds behind the curtain.
In actuality, no one had leaked the news of the tableware outside. Even now, the people outside had no idea about it. The eunuch had only claimed as much because Han Yunxi had instructed Zhao mama to tell him so. When they brought in the captives later and started interrogating their leaders, would those scholars still bear up before her and Long Feiye’s mighty scrutiny? Would they even be able to reason properly? Most likely, they’d be so scared they’ve give up their masters at a glance.
The huge hall was wreathed in horrific silence as everyone heard their hearts pound. If Baili Lixiang hadn’t been supporting her father, Baili Yuanlong would’ve fainted away by now. Meanwhile, she seemed to have turned completely witless. Her palms were covered in sweat that slowly soaked through her father’s sleeves.
Such silent waiting was simply torture!
Finally, footsteps sounded from outside the hall. Baili Lixiang couldn’t help turning to look, only to see a group of commons being pushed into the hall by guards to kneel just outside. They were making a racket before, but now none of them even dared to lift their heads.
“Bring out the leaders!” Long Feiye ordered frostily!Previous Chapter Next Chapter
there are enough twists here to keep me entertained. good job, author.