Joy of Life - Chapter 493 - The Three Nights In The Palace[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:49:27]
Chapter 493: The Three Nights In The Palace
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The night was already late, and the royal study was silent. The Qing Emperor was busy with state affairs, so he showed less favor to the harem in the palace. There were many nights like this one when he didn’t rest in the rear of the palace and instead just slept in the royal study, so the eunuchs had long prepared everything he needed.
A light breeze burrowed in from the window. Although it clearly could not reach the lantern light through the glass, for some reason, it still made the room a bit dimmer.
“Yes. I heard that she had stolen a piece of watered jade the empress wore when she was young. After she was questioned, she confessed, and then found a moment to commit suicide.”
Eunuch Yao very simply told the emperor everything he knew and didn’t say a single word more.
“Watered jade?” The Emperor furrowed his brows and seemed to be thinking of something. A moment later, he smiled and said, “I remember now. That was something the empress wore when she was young. I remember that father had gifted it to her family after arranging this marriage. At that time, father had just taken the throne…the palace was in a mess. This item isn’t superior in quality, but the empress liked it a great deal when she was young and always wore it.”
He furrowed his forehead and pulled out from this rare warm memory. Faintly, he said, “I remember there were clouds carved on it.”
Eunuch Yao remained silent. He didn’t know what the Emperor’s mood was like.
“Although the empress likes it, there is no need to beat a serving girl to death over such a small plaything.” A cold smile rose the corners of the Emperor’s lips. “Isn’t she known as the most generous mistress in the Palace? A virtuous, moral, and kind mother of a nation? She had always played the role very well, so how could she have wrecked all her hard work on this little matter?”
Eunuch Yao had clearly said that the serving girl had committed suicide out of shame, but the Emperor directly said she had been beaten to death. Each person in the palace was cleverer than the last. Everyone knew what truths these words hid.
“Secretly check what happened.” The Emperor raised the memorial again and recovered his calm.
The Royal Palace had long recovered its seemingly eternal calm. No one knew that Eunuch Yao was leading a few old eunuchs in secretly investigating something. The Emperor did not seem to care too much about this matter and didn’t ask for any information for many days.
Once again in the night, Eunuch Yao politely reported, “There is no problem with the serving girl’s death.”
The Emperor nodded and said, “I know now.”
“Only, the afternoon of the same day that something happened to the serving girl, she had delivered a roll of cloth to Guangxin Palace. A day earlier, the foreign cloth the empress had ordered from Dongyi had arrived. Following regulations, it was delivered to the various places the next day, and there was nothing strange.” Eunuch Yao added.
The Emperor slowly pulled back his gaze from the memorial and glanced at him, and then lowered them again. “I know now.”
“At the time, the Crown Prince was also in Guangxin Palace.” Eunuch Yao’s head could not be lowered any further.
The Emperor placed the memorial gently on the table and seemed to be thinking. He didn’t say “I know now” again. Instead, he sighed and ordered, “Have Hong Zhu come over.”
Hong Zhu knelt in front of the Emperor’s low couch. The color of his face was like dirt and his thighs trembled. Even the cotton robes at the front of his body had layers of ripples on it.
He wasn’t pretending. He was truly terrified…he had thought that Sir Fan junior had buried this clue very deep. Furthermore, it looked like it had absolutely nothing to do with him and should allow him to leave this matter far behind. Unexpectedly, he was kneeling in front of the Emperor.
The Emperor did not look directly at him and straightforwardly asked, “A serving girl in the Eastern Palace died?”
“Yes.” Hong Zhu did not hesitate at all. In order to demonstrate his honesty and sincerity, he struggled to suppress his lungs and tried to make his answer sound as crisp as possible. However, the flow of air was too strong and made his voice break. It sounded very raspy.
The sound of his reply echoed in the royal study. It was eye-piercing and unpleasant to hear. The Emperor unconsciously furrowed his brows and said, “Be a bit quieter…tell me of the situation at the time.”
Hong Zhu honestly related to him why the empress remembered that piece of jade, how the search in the palace began, how they found that serving girl, who carried out the questioning, and how the serving girl committed suicide.
The Emperor seemed to be listening carefully but also seemed to not have heard a single word. His gaze remained on the memorial. He casually asked, “When the serving girl ran into the column, did you see it personally?”
“No.” Hong Zhu did not hesitate at all. Inside his heart, he loudly cried his good fortune. If, at the time, the empress had not kept him behind for some other matter, his answer right now would certainly not be so natural.
The royal study once again fell silent. After a long time, the Emperor suddenly raised his head and looked at Hong Zhu with a not-quite-there smile, “Why are you so scared today?”
Hong Zhu swallowed and a complicated expression of terror mixed with self-blame naturally appeared on his face. As he kowtowed to the ground, he said in a sorrowful voice, “I have betrayed your royal favor. I didn’t report the serving girl’s suicide promptly, I deserve death.”
The Emperor was surprised and smiled. “I had you go to the Eastern Palace to serve the empress, not to be a spy. For such a small matter, there is no need to let me know.”
Hong Zhu nodded his head furiously, but he was thinking about something else. A year ago, he had been chased by the Emperor, who had long shown him great favor, out of the study and into the Eastern Palace. In the eyes of the outsiders, it was because Fan Xian had said bad things about him to the Emperor. He knew that the Emperor was only using this opportunity to have him be a gold medal spy in the Eastern Palace. Furthermore, during this year, he had been a very good spy.
He comforted his timidity in his heart and forcefully raised his spirits. Even the Emperor didn’t know who he truly belonged to, so what if he was a little bit shaky?
The Emperor had been about to open his mouth to ask something but he suddenly furrowed his brows and stopped his mouth. He changed the subject and said, “How has the empress treated you this year in the Eastern Palace?”
“Mistress is very generous to the servants, and everyone submits cheerfully.” These words of Hong Zhu’s were very artistic.
The Emperor smiled and muttered to himself in a very low voice, “To kill a serving girl for the sake of a piece of jade, this…counts as being generous?”
After Hong Zhu left, Eunuch Yao stood quietly beside the Emperor and waited for his order. The Emperor was silent for a long time then said, “Hong Zhu didn’t lie. Looks like that there really isn’t any problems with the death of that serving girl, only…” he smiled and said, “this process is a bit too smooth.”
Eunuch Yao was shocked but understood the Emperor’s meaning. Ever since Qing Kingdom began, all kinds of strange deaths had happened a number of times in the Royal Palace. No matter how shameful the plot or blood, they could all be covered with an open and public excuse. However, often, when the reasons were too sufficient and the process too natural, then the death was worth being suspicious about.
“There are some things that I don’t believe, and you shouldn’t remember,” the Emperor calmly said.
Eunuch Yao knelt down.
“Have Eunuch Hong come.”
In this moment of fear, Eunuch Yao did not hear the Emperor’s words clearly and unconsciously replied, “Young Eunuch Hong just left.”
The Emperor furrowed his brows and looked slightly unhappy. Eunuch Yao immediately came to his sense. Picking up the front of his robes, he ran toward the door and almost fell as he crossed the threshold.
Ever since the day Fan Xian’s 300 poems caused an uproar at the feast, which was also the day that an assassin entered the Royal Palace, in the past 10 years, Eunuch Hong, who had been in the Palace since the conception of Qing Kingdom and the head eunuch at the time, became more and more silent and subdued. He only wanted to lay in the sun outside Hanguang Palace every day.
However, no one in the Palace dared to underestimate him. On the contrary, they increasingly felt that the old eunuch was not to be tested because of his silence. Even the currently popular Hong Zhu only had his current position because of his connection to him.
Even the empress dowager and Emperor maintained a certain etiquette with this old eunuch.
Today, the Emperor directly called him by his name, “Hong Siyang, what do you think?”
The last time the Qing Emperor had referred to the old eunuch like this he was asking for his opinion on Fan Xian. At that time, old Eunuch Hong had replied and said that he thought Fan Xian was overly fake.
Only in these important times when he needed Eunuch Hong’s opinions would the Emperor seriously call his name. Others may have thought that perhaps this was a form of disrespect, but the Emperor’s thoughts were exactly the opposite. He always referred to the Eunuch Hong as “eunuch.” It made the other person remember the hidden ailment, whereas calling him by his name seemed much more appropriate.
Eunuch Hong’s body was slightly bent. He had a half-sleepy, half-waking expression. He quietly replied, “Your Highness, in many things, it does not matter how you see it. Even if you see it with your own eyes, it still may not be true.”
The Emperor nodded and said, “I have always been overly suspicious. I know this is not good, as I could see things incorrectly. That is why I am asking you to help me look.”
Eunuch Hong bowed respectfully and did not say anything more.
The Emperor was silent for a long time and then said, “Chengqian has been quite spirited this past half a year. Other than the usual lessons with his royal tutors, he often visits Guangxin Palace to listen to Yunrui teach him about the three ways to govern a country. I am a bit curious, how could he have recovered so quickly?”
Although there were already cracks in the royal family, on the surface it still looked fine. The Emperor knew that his sister had studied deeply the arts of power, so he usually did not oppose the Crown Prince from getting close to the Eldest Princess. He had even secretly demonstrated his approval, however…
“I will have to trouble you.” After the Emperor said this, he did not glance at Eunuch Hong again.
Eunuch Hong left the room with his body bent and slowly closed the door to the royal study. He walked some distance and turned his head to gaze at the lights inside before sighing from the bottom of his heart. He said to himself, “Since you know you are overly suspicious, then why say you are curious…Your Highness, ah, you need to change your personality. The future of Qing Kingdom all rests on you.”
A few days later, a royal doctor fell sick and died. Another few days later, a noble living in the manor of a distant imperial relative, unfortunately, fell off his horse while out on an excursion. And another few days later, the famous Huichun Hall in Jingdou suddenly caught fire and a dozen people died.
The same night as when the fire happened, a wooden-faced Eunuch Hong once again appeared before the Emperor. In an aging voice he reported, “When my investigation reached the Imperial Academy of Medicine, the doctor died. When my investigation led me to the manor of the imperial relative, the noble also died. When my investigation led me to Huichun Hall, Huichun Hall burned down.”
Tonight, the Qing Emperor was not annotating memorials. He listened closely to Eunuch Hong’s report. After hearing these words, a strange smile flashed across the corners of his mouth.
“Someone wants to hide something. Regardless of whether it is in the Palace or in the capital, there are not many people who can get something done ahead of you,” the Emperor said calmly. “I’ve always liked her methods.”
Eunuch Hong didn’t say anything. Everyone in the world was familiar with the Eldest Princess’ methods. However, she hadn’t had much opportunity to demonstrate it fully in recent years. If such methods were used in helping the Emperor maintain balance in the court and is pointed at the world, of course, the Emperor liked it. But, if they were used to destroy evidence and fool the Emperor, of course, the Emperor…would not like it.
Eunuch Hong took out a pill and handed it over. “I only managed to snatch a pill.”
The Emperor gently rolled it around with his fingers. He applied a slight pressure and the pill crumbled, releasing a strange fragrance. His eyes were cold as he said, “It is indeed good medicine.”
Eunuch Hong calmly said, “It could be a setup.”
“That’s why…everything needs to be seen personally,” the Emperor said. “Go rest. Regardless of how this thing ends, don’t tell mother.”
Eunuch Hong made a sound of acknowledgement and left. He knew that, even with his position, there were still many things in the Palace that he could not see.
A slight breeze brushed across the buildings in the Royal Palace. In a garden not far from Guangxin Palace, the Qing Emperor, in yellow robes, flashed out from behind a tree. He lowered his head and felt slightly confused. Clearly, Hong Siyang had already made a great deal of ruckus, so why didn’t she pull back slightly?
However, this confusion had long been shattered by the feelings of anger and absurdity in his heart. The Emperor’s eyes were filled with failure, disappointment, and despondency.
The middle-aged man didn’t return to his sleeping palace, rather, he continued to sleep in the royal study.
This night, he thought for a long time and asked the Eunuch Yao, who was beside him serving him, a strange question, “Would Hong Zhu know something?”
Eunuch Yao shook his head nervously and persuaded in him otherwise. He had to protect Hong Zhu’s life while the Emperor was quietly angry so that he could best ensure his own safety.
“I want to kill him…” The Emperor furrowed his brows and said, “I want to…kill everyone in this Palace.”
Then he calmed down and ordered, in a strangely cold tone, “Summon Director Chen into the Palace.”
In the midst of winter, Eunuch Yao, with sweat beading on his forehead, rushed out of the Palace like he had been pardoned of a great crime and headed directly for Chen Garden to find the great savior. Not long after he left, a giant crashing sound came from the royal study. It sounded like the rare and precious meter tall vase had been pushed by someone to the ground.
Who knew what would make the usually very steady and stoic Qing Emperor express his rage in such a way.
“There’s no problem with Huichun Hall, right?” In the Chen Garden, the old cripple who had spent many years on the wheelchair said to his closest comrade by his side. “I don’t wish to make a mistake in the last moment.”
Fei Jie, with a head of wild hair, said, “What problems could there be? Although it is Hong Siyang personally investigating, every step the Palace has taken has been within your plans. They won’t find anything.”
“Very good.” Chen Pingping closed his eyes and thought for a long time, the lines at the corners of his eyes bloomed like flowers. He slowly opened his eyes and said, “I am thinking about a problem. Should I have Hong Zhu disappear?”
This was a strange question. The Emperor would occasionally think of this because, in his anger, he unconsciously wanted to kill everyone who would be able to guess the unsightly truths about the royal family. Furthermore, he immediately came to his senses and didn’t make this decision. So, why would Chen Pingping think about killing Hong Zhu?
Chen Pingping furrowed his brows and said, “After thinking about it, Hong Zhu is the only thread in this entire matter that could go wrong.”
Fei Jie shook his head. “Although we devised a way for Hong Zhu to see this, it is very clear that the Emperor did not learn of this through the little eunuch.”
These words explained a very startling truth and a huge question that had spun around Fan Xian’s head but that he could not ask.
Although Hong Zhu was the head eunuch of the Eastern Palace, how could his luck be so good…or perhaps, so bad, that he would be able to discover the secret matter between the Eldest Princess and the Crown Prince?
So…even Hong Zhu was only a piece with which Chen Pingping had used to start the wave.
“Precisely because of this, I feel that this little eunuch is difficult to see through.” Chen Pingping furrowed his brows. “He is clearly a spy the Emperor had placed into the Eastern Palace. After knowing of this matter, why did he not report it to the Emperor? It even made me think that I would have to wait another two months before this matter would be incited.”
“Perhaps he knows that if this matter came out from his mouth, he would die without question,” Fei Jie said. “To be someone that can climb up in the Palace, of course, he is not stupid.”
Chen Pingping suddenly smiled slightly and said, “For Hong Zhu to be able to hold it in, I am very admiring. However, the Emperor finally found out. That is very good.”
Fei Jie also smiled. His smile was slightly dark. “You have a good heir, and I have a good student.”
Chen Pingping nodded with a satisfied smile. “Up until now, I still don’t know what he has planned. Just this point alone shows that he has grown a lot.”
This old cripple knew that Hong Zhu was the Emperor’s confidante, but he didn’t know that Hong Zhu belonged to Fan Xian.