Joy of Life - Chapter 536 - The Sound of Sorrow[Updated at: 2021-01-12 01:49:43]
Chapter 536: The Sound of Sorrow
Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The entire city was unadorned and covered in plain white silk. It was as if a great snowfall that seeped coldness into people’s hearts had fallen in September. Snowflakes seemed to be landing on everyone around the Royal Palace and in each of the streets, alleys, and private residences. They were not true snowflakes. Rather, they were white cloths, pieces of paper, lights, hangings, and lanterns.
The pure whiteness was clean. It subdued the sorrow and tears in the people’s chests, who were terrified of disturbing the saddest day Qing Kingdom had experienced in 20 years.
The news of the Emperor’s demise could not be hidden forever, particularly as the rumors grew. The empress had to make a prompt decision. She could not wait for the group sent to Dong Mountain to retrieve the Emperor’s body or for the various investigations to continue before she announced the earth-shattering news to the world.
The people of Jingdou had long prepared themselves. Once they received the court’s confirmation and saw the large white lanterns being hung on the corners of the Palace, they were still greatly shocked. As frequently happened after a person died, they began to think of his positive qualities. Regardless of what kind of person the Qing Emperor was, during his 20 years of reign, the people of Qing Kingdom lived in the happiest period of history to date.
Thus, for a night, Jingdou was filled with cries of sorrow.
The Qing nobility wanted to tell the people that the Emperor had fallen ill and died at the summit of Dong Mountain. As for what the true truth was, perhaps, it would only be gradually exposed in many years and rush like floodwaters into the hearts of the Qing people. The nobility would once again use the people’s emotions to seek out their own personal benefits.
It was not yet the day for the entire country to mourn the Emperor, but Jingdou had already become a white-covered world. Furthermore, the Minister of Rites and officials of Honglu Temple had followed the Emperor into death on the summit of the distant mountain. All the actions to be carried out appeared to be somewhat unsmooth. Like a song of sorrow, in the middle, there would always be a number of forced pauses.
It was precisely because of this disorder and the sorrow of the major figures in Qing court that made many sink into a kind of terror and feeling of unease. Although the Emperor was not known for shocking actions and appeared somewhat mediocre and quiet, he was the nucleus of Qing Kingdom’s spirit.
After everyone became used to their sorrow, they felt it was absurd. How could the extraordinary Emperor, who had the desire to unify the world, die so silently? It was not that they could not accept the Emperor’s death, it was that no one seemed to be able to accept his manner of death. It was so silent that it was strange.
Now that the unifier had quietly died, what would greet Qing Kingdom? Would it be collapse after chaos? Was it a re-ignition of desire after a calm inheritance?
Seeking stability, everyone’s minds were wet. They turned their gaze toward the dragon chair in Taiji Palace and hoped desperately that a prince would quickly place his rear into that chair and stabilize Qing Kingdom’s politics.
The Crown Prince was the first choice. Whether it was because of his title, relationship to the empress dowager, or the observations of the officials, it was reasonable that it should be him who inherited the throne. However, everyone knew that the main purpose of the Emperor’s visit to Dong Mountain was to worship heaven to depose the Crown Prince. Some people came to their own conclusions but did not dare say it.
The officials who entered the Palace to weep before the coffin saw, from a distance, the Crown Prince leaning against the coffin crying. A chill and respect rose in their hearts. It was as if they had seen the rebirth of the Emperor at a younger age crying beside the coffin.
The rumors of what truly happened at Dong Mountain moved among the officials. Some people believed it had something to do with Sir Fan junior, while others did not believe it. However, Fan Xian had disappeared. Perhaps he had died on Dong Mountain or escaped because of his crimes, leaving behind his father, wife, and unborn child to escape to a distant foreign country.
The officials knew that if Sir Fan junior did not have the ability to flip the tables, then he could only bury his name in darkness while the big picture was set.
The empress dowager sat in the doorway of Hanguang Palace and heard the waves of crying coming from behind the Palace. Her brows furrowed almost indiscernibly. A glimmer of sorrow flashed through the old woman’s eyes. She knew that this was not the time for her to succumb to her sorrow. She had to hand the Qing Kingdom wholly over to the next generation before she could truly rest.
According to the Li royal family’s old traditions, there was a yellow copper basin placed outside the door. Paper money used by the common people were burning in the basin. The yellow money gradually burned into a pile of ash like it was foreshadowing that nothing was permanent in life. No matter how brilliant and boundless a life was, in the end, it would be nothing more than a wisp of smoke and a pile of ash.
The entire Palace was busy in subdued nervousness. The inner layer of the Palace walls were not high. The bamboo tip of the white banners the internal court had ordered could vaguely be seen hurrying across the wall, heading toward the front of the Palace. Inside Taiji Palace, an event that would determine the future of Qing Kingdom was going to happen. Everyone’s gaze was fixed there.
In contrast, Hanguang Palace was particularly cold and quiet. The empress dowager drew back her gaze from the tips of the bamboo poles and said in a slightly raspy voice, “The court cannot fall into chaos. If the Palace is a bit chaotic today, it is fine.”
She turned to look at the old official at her side. Doing her best to speak in a warm tone, she said, “You are a senior official and greatly trusted by the Emperor. At this critical juncture, you should be thinking about the court.”
Shu Wu was half bent over. His old and peaceful gaze watched the gradually dying flames in the yellow basin. Lowering his voice, he said, “I understand. However, the Emperor’s posthumous edict is here. I dare not disobey.”
A leaping flame flashed through the empress dowager’s eyes and was immediately extinguished. Gently extending her hand, she threw the unopened letter into the basin. The originally almost extinguished paper money in the basin immediately began to burn more fiercely.
The letter the Emperor had personally written the night before he was assassinated and the posthumous edict that appointed the successor to the Qing Kingdom gradually burned with the useless paper money sacrificed to him.
Shu Wu stared at the letter in the copper basin and didn’t speak for a long time.
“Since the person is already gone, then what he once said is no longer important.” The empress dowager suddenly dissolved into a coughing fit and didn’t regain her breath for a long time. She looked at Shu Wu with a sincere gaze. In a warm tone, which she shouldn’t have had, she said, “For the future of Qing Kingdom, the truth has never been important. Isn’t that right?”
Shu Wu was silent for a long time then shook his head. “Your Highness, I am only a scholar. I only know that the truth is the truth, the imperial will is the imperial will, and I am the Emperor’s official.”
“You have already done your best.” The empress dowager gazed at him calmly. “You have already done what an official should do. If you see Fan Xian again, remember to tell him, I can give him a chance to wash himself clean. He only he as to stand out.”
A chill rose in Shu Wu’s heart. He knew that if Sir Fan junior had actually entered the Palace to see the empress dowager last night, at this moment, he would probably have already become a scapegoat for the Emperor’s assassination. He would have become a brilliant cannon blast before the Crown Prince’s ascension.
He bowed to the ground and respectfully said, “I am going to Taiji Palace.”
The empress dowager smiled slightly and shook her head. “Go. You have to know that everything is destined by fate. Since there is no way to change, and any attempt to do so would make the matter worse, then why try to change it?”
Shu Wu was a senior of Qing Kingdom and very respected in the hearts of the people. He had students all over the court. However, he had a very stubborn personality. Today was the Crown Prince’s ascension ceremony. He gave no thought to his life and death and forcefully requested to see the empress dowager to try and change the matter.
It was only this old official that had the authority to do this. If it had been another official, they would probably have become a wronged spirit at the foot of the Palace walls. At this critical moment, the empress dowager had focused on stability and would not be overly pushy toward this old official.
Shu Wu had not changed anything. If he was clever, he would quietly wait until the Crown Prince had taken the throne and immediately offer to retire.
Shu Wu walked alone to the doors of Taiji Palace. He did not hear the calls of the plain-clothed official or Eunuch Hong’s announcing the Crown Prince’s edict to invite the scholar into the palace. He only stood at the palace door in a daze. He looked at the messy sacrificial group on the square outside the palace, the pin-straight white banners, and the imperial soldiers warily looking around. He heard the sounds of firecrackers in the distance and severe ring of the whip. He suddenly felt a wave of hot blood surge into his head, making him dizzy.
From this moment onward, Shu the Scholar’s head was sunk in a haze, causing him to be like a wooden person. He walked dazedly into the expansive Taiji Palace and stood in the second position with the civil officials.
He didn’t hear what the empress dowager said with sorrow from behind the beaded curtain next to the dragon chair. He also didn’t hear the sincere crying of the four princes and other children and grandchildren of the Emperor or the crying of the Qing officials that echoed in the Palace.
Only a few words here and there wormed into his ears such as, “Fan Xian,””rebellion,””arrest,” and “wiping out a family.”
Shu the Scholar dazedly followed the officials as they knelt on the ground. He dizzily stood up and remained quietly to the side. In front of him, Hu the Scholar glanced at him with concern. He used his gaze to convey a reminder and cautiousness but hid the coldness in his heart.
All of the officials hid it well. There was only sorrow and nothing else.
Shu Wu furrowed his brows. He couldn’t hear anything. He looked at his colleagues, with whom he was usually so familiar, standing in rank. At this moment, he felt they were all strangers, particularly Hu the Scholar in front of him. The two of them were friendly. Although they didn’t have any time to talk from last night until now, outside the Palace, he had given him a secret signal.
Why was Hu the Scholar so calm?
Shu Wu’s brows furrowed tighter and tighter. Suddenly, his body trembled. The ear that had gone deaf for a long time suddenly began to work. He heard the music ringing out from outside Taiji Palace.
He opened his mouth. It was only now he realized that everything was said and done. The Crown Prince was about to take the throne.
Shu Wu’s strange behavior was noticed by many people. However, the officials at court all knew that the previous Emperor and Shu Wu had always gotten along well. Suddenly hearing of the Emperor’s death, the old scholar was probably overwhelmed by emotions. It was natural for him to be somewhat dazed, so not many people thought much of it.
The empress dowager, sitting behind the beaded curtain next to the dragon chair, stared coldly at Shu Wu’s every action. Her gaze turned a few times. A eunuch walked behind Shu Wu, ready to help the old scholar go rest.
The Crown Prince’s gaze landed on Shu Wu. Forcefully hiding his sorrow, he said, “Scholar, go to the side room to rest for a moment.” He no longer looked at the crowd or glanced at his brothers below the steps. He calmed his emotions and began to walk in the direction of the dragon chair.
Standing in front of the dragon chair, the Crown Prince looked down at his brothers and officials kneeling on the ground. He knew that after he sat down, he would become the fifth monarch since the inception of Qing Kingdom. He would be a ruler who controlled the lives and deaths of hundreds of millions of people in his hands.
This was a goal he had fought for a long time. To get here, he had been scared, jealous, and wanton, and then finally learned his father’s silent endurance, calm, patience, and ruthlessness.
When this goal was suddenly right before him, Crown Prince Li Chengqian’s emotions were calm to the point that he felt it was strange.
His gaze dropped as he looked at his second brother below. He looked at the calm and gentle expression on his face and, for some reason, thought of Fan Xian, who had already secretly sneaked into Jingdou.
The news of Fan Xian’s survival came from the direction of Dongshan Road last night. The Crown Prince’s heart felt like it had sprouted a sugar thorn, sweet but pained. For some reason, he let out a breath after learning about Fan Xian’s survival. As for his second brother… An icy smile flashed through the Crown Prince’s heart. The Ye family’s army was not far from Jingdou, yet it was still difficult for his brother to find peace.
“Please, would the Emperor take the throne?”
Crown Prince Li Chengqian bowed three times to show his respect to heaven, earth, and the people. He straightened his body and looked at the officials kneeling in the hall. It was as if he saw the hundreds of millions of people kneeling to him. A satisfaction in controlling the world rose in him. However, it suddenly disappeared without a trace. He only felt that this matter was so boring that it made one irritated.
Perhaps he was the only Emperor to sit on the dragon throne with a frown.
As Li Chengqian thought this, a corner of his heart gave a sigh. He turned his body to bow respectfully to the empress dowager and began to sit down on the dragon chair.
Shu Wu felt that he had truly lost his head. In a solemn and sorrowful moment, in which the entire court was silent and all the officials were kneeling, he actually moved. Coming to the dragon chair, he bowed his head to the ground and cried out in a high voice, “No!”
Once the word “no” was out, everyone in the hall was shocked. The face of the empress dowager behind the curtain darkened. A few eunuchs began to move in Shu the Scholar’s direction. It was the Crown Prince, who was about to sit on the dragon chair, who let out a breath. He finally understood his doubts.
The ascension could not be so smooth. There had to be some waves.
As Shu Wu called out that word, he awoke from his dazed condition. The old scholar took in a deep breath and felt a rare clarity. He knew what he should do.
Sir Fan junior wanted to borrow his moral character, so he would toss it out as a reciprocation of the Emperor’s many years of patronage and protection, as well as the Qing people’s hope toward the officials.
Shu Wu didn’t even look at the eunuch coming to help him. He straightened his body and looked at the empress dowager behind the curtain and the Crown Prince in front of the dragon chair. Using all the strength in his body and all the honor in his life and lives of his entire clan, he cried out in a sorrowful voice.
“Before the Emperor passed, he left a posthumous edict. The Crown Prince is not to inherit!”
The entire Palace was silent. No one spoke.