The chapter title is a bit of a giveaway but … …
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Chapter Sixty Three Trapping Ning Wang
By now, Rui Wang was the most infamous person in Jing City. First of all, he was suspected of attacking his didi, and now he was suspected of doing the same to his gege. Such ruthless conduct, disregarding all fraternal duty. Even though it had not been proven, in the eyes of everyone, Rui Wang had now charged with being unfraternal along with being arrogant and domineering.
Qing De Emperor hadn’t thought that the two matters would have become intimately connected to three of his sons. He looked at the arrow which had been presented to him by the commander of the Imperial Guards. A beat later, he sighed. Regardless of the truth, Yuan’er wasn’t suited to become an Emperor.
“Your Majesty, Shu guifei niangniang requests a meeting,” The chief taijian entered the room and knelt in front of him.
Qing De Emperor stood and walked to the window and saw the woman waiting outside. He closed his eyes as he refused, “Tell Shu guifei to return. Just say that zhen is too busy and cannot see her right now.”
A flicker of surprise appeared in the chief taijian’s eyes before he instantly recovered. He bowed and retreated. It seemed that the Emperor had lost hope in the Third Highness.
“Guifei niangniang, Emperor is concerned with state matters at the moment so he cannot meet you.” The chief steward walked in front of Shu guifei, respectfully announcing, “Please leave.”
“Emperor doesn’t want to see ben gong?” Shu guifei looked at the wide open door, anger rising up within her. She turned and left, clearly furious at the conduct of the Emperor.
“Respectfully sending Shu guifei niangniang,” The chief taijian serenely bent at the waist. He looked on as Shu guifei hurriedly left his view before slowly straightening. A smile, just like any other smile he had given before, appeared on his face. Shu guifei’s personality hadn’t changed after all these years. But what was she doing by having a tantrum at this time?
Shu guifei came out of the main gate of Tian Qi Palace. Her face had darkened considerably as she entered the step-carriage. Not even the bright sunlight could lighten up her mood.
When Jing guifei met Shu guifei in the Imperial Gardens, she was holding two roses in full bloom. Seeing the ugly expression on the other’s face, she smiled as she asked: “Meimei, what has made you so angry?”
“Jiejie seems to be in a good mood,” Su guifei snorted, “I see that His Highness Duan Wang’s injuries weren’t that serious.”
“It was the Heavens that protected him,” Jing guifei handed the flowers to the palace maid beside her, “I just don’t know how the victim feels right now.”
Shu guifei smiled coldly. She had always looked down on Wei shi’s act, using pretty words to make His Majesty happy. She indicated for the taijian supporting the step-carriage to continue since she had no desire of disembarking.
Jing guifei narrowed her eyes as she saw the procession of Shu guifei leave in a huff. She smiled lazily: “Ben gong loves her temper.” Otherwise, how else could she have climbed to such a high position?
Just as everyone assumed that the matter was definitely related to Rui Wang, the Associate Justice Tian da ren gave a report at Court which surprised everyone with its contents.
Tian da ren reported that the Supreme Court had, just three months before Duan Wang was attacked by assassins, received a report from a steward of Rui Wang’s property. He said that the mountain had lost a large number of trees. It wasn’t very valuable, but to prevent others from having nefarious aims, the steward had immediately notified the Supreme Court.
“So what Tian da ren means to say is that given the report from san di’s fu, this incident has nothing to do with san di,” He Qi said amusedly before asking, “But didn’t da ren think that this may have been purposefully done by san di?”
“What the truth of the case is, this official does not know. This official is only reporting what is known to the Emperor,” Tian Jin Ke didn’t care for Ning Wang’s nitpicking. He gave a bow to Qing De Emperor before continuing, “Emperor, this official has also found that three months ago, the Imperial Guards had run across some wagons transporting wood. When they asked, they were told that they were the servants of His Highness Ning Wang. One of them had even revealed His Highness Ning Wang’s medal.”
“Nonsense, ben wang had just been fixing up a property in the suburbs. Half a year ago, the residence was burned, everyone in Jing knows that. What does Tian da ren mean to say?” He Qi hadn’t thought that Tian Jin Ke would divert the matter onto him, instantly yelling back: “ben wang thinks that you have treacherous aims and is purposefully slandering ben wang in front of fuhuang.”
“Please quell your anger, Your Highness Ning Wang. This official has already said that he is only saying what he has found, and has not said this matter is connected with Your Highness,” Tian Jin Ke gave a bow with two hands pressed together, “Perhaps it is only a coincidence.”
Qing De Emperor narrowed his eyes at his eldest son. He trusted Tian Jin Ke. This was a person that he had met before he had succeeded the throne. He impatiently interrupted before He Qi could defend, “No need for discussion. Let the Ministry of Works investigate how much wood you used to fix your estate so we can find out the truth.” He turned to ask Tian Jin Ke, “Beloved Official Tian,[i] do you know how much wood was purchased by Ning Wang?”
“This official has already investigated. Emperor, please take a look.” Tian Jin Ke bent his body as he presented the evidence with both hands. After the palace hall taijian presented the account to the Emperor, he silently retreated to one side.
“Fuhuang, you don’t believe er chen?!” He Qi looked in disbelief at the man sitting at the top. He knelt with a loud bang, “Er chen definitely wouldn’t do anything unfraternal, fuhuang, please investigate thoroughly.”
“Hasn’t zhen sent someone to investigate? Get up,” Qing De Emperor irritably waved his hand, “Tomorrow, zhen wants to know the results. End of Court!”
Once the Emperor left, the officials started to leave. He Qi looked fiercely at Tian Jin Ke. The other’s peaceful expression made him even angrier, “Tian da ren is such a good dog, when you bite, you take half of a life.”
Tian Jin Ke raised his eyelids, and lifted his hands up as he drawled: “Your Highness Ning Wang is making jokes. Instead of wang ye joking around with this official, shouldn’t you check to see if there is anything wrong with the lumber?”
“Such a good Tian Jin Ke!” He Qi’s face was black as he swept away.
Tian Jin Ke watched as Ning Wang savagely rushed out of the discussion hall. He calmly adjusted his own clothing and continued to walk at a sedate pace towards the entrance.
In Fu Lang Manor, Qu Qing Ju sat in the bathtub. She looked at the man bathing beside her, one of his arms raised high. She used a cloth to wipe his chest, caressing the other’s muscles. She nodded in satisfaction, “Wang ye’s body isn’t bad.”
“How my body is, Qing Ju should know best, “He Heng smiled as he rubbed Qu Qing Ju’s hair. He abruptly asked, “Has Qing Ju ever wanted something very much as a youngster?” His gaze swept across the jade gourd that was hanging on her chest. His eyes passed her white and tempting chest and slowly moved away.
“Wanted very much?” Qu Qing Ju didn’t stop her hands and wiped down his stomach. She teased him a few times before smiling, “When I was young, I wanted so many things. It was different each day. When I saw other people’s beautiful clothes, beautiful hair ornaments, I felt that I really wanted them. Afterwards, when I grew up, I wanted a peaceful life, a person to accompany me through my days, to accept and love me.” She then laughed out loud, in either joy or self-disdain.
He Heng assumed that the ‘other people’ she’d mentioned were Qu Yue Su and the Qu Family. He smiled as he reassured her, “In the future, you don’t have to admire others. I will give you many good things and have others admire you instead.” He reached out to touch the luminous jade gourd, “I will accompany you and love you.”
Qu Qing Ju’s hands stilled. She smiled at He Heng, something swirling in her eyes, “I believe that right now, wang ye’s words are sincere.” In this world, many men were sincere when they were spoke. But the length of this sincerity could be one month, one year, even a lifetime. No one knew for sure.
As a gentle and soft hand smoothed over the other’s back, Qu Qing Ju laughed as she promised: “If wang ye loves qie for a lifetime, then naturally qie won’t leave.”
He Heng’s heart stopped. For some reason, he felt a slightly numb yet piercing pain as a sweet yet sour feeling took over his heart. He reached out to grab her waist. The waist in his embrace was very soft, but it gave him the feeling of strength. In this instant, he suddenly understood that even if a more remarkable woman appeared in front of his eyes in the future, there wouldn’t be anyone who could make him feel the way he did right now.
The steam from the bathtub blurred the figures of the two, spreading out so that their eyes became hazy like the steam. It was beautiful and somewhat unreal, but it made one feel that it should be like this.
At Court on the second day, all the officials stood in fear as they listened to the people of the Ministry of Works reporting the strings of numbers. They focused their absolute attention to the result announced at the very end.
“… … this official and subordinates, after investigating all night, have found that the amount of lumber His Highness Ning Wang had brought and the amount he had actually used did not match up,” The Minster of Works trembled as he finished reciting the numbers in his hands and submissively shrunk his head as he stood to one side.
He Qi hadn’t expected that he would be implicated to this extent. He moved forward a step to plead: “Fuhuang, er chen has nothing to do with this matter. Lumber would have been wasted when they were reconstructing the residence. These numbers might not all be correct. Fuhuang, please re-investigate.”
“If it has nothing to do with you, why did the fingernails of the assassin’s corpses have pollen from the balsam and rose flowers in your estate?,” Qing De Emperor threw a secret report in front of his eldest son. He watched as the other knelt down with a face full of disbelief. He continued, voice full of hurt, “And the shoes they were wearing and their clothing, they were the handiwork of the embroidery women on your estate. Did you assume that others couldn’t find out because they were just minor details? If you didn’t want others to know, you shouldn’t have done it in the first place.”
“These assassins, they wore the same clothes as the ones who tried to assassinate Cheng Wang. Even the blades and arrows were from the same craftsmen. How do you explain all of this?!” Qing De Emperor ranted furiously before coughing harshly, “As the eldest son, you tried to frame and kill your brothers. Do you still have zhen, or your brothers in your heart?!”
“Fuhuang, er chen is innocent!” He Qi didn’t understand how his assassins were now mixed up with the unknown assassins who attacked He Heng. He kowtowed furiously, “Fuhuang, er chen didn’t know anything about this matter. Fuhuang, please investigate!”
“Zhen had asked you to investigate the case of the attacked envoys. The truth seemed to have been uncovered, but who knew that the true mastermind was you, an unfilial son,” Qing De Emperor pointed at He Qi, not wanting to hear his explanation, “zhen will pretend to not have an animal like you as a child. Come, imprison him in the Bright Moon Tower within the Jing suburbs. He will not be released in this lifetime!”
When he finished speaking, his body swayed and he fainted against the arm of the dragon chair.
“Fuhuang!” He Qi saw Qing De Emperor faint, his already bad expression becoming even more ugly. Before he could stand, the Imperial Guards held him and started to drag him out of the hall.
He struggled to raise his head in the hands of the Imperial Guards. He could only see, in the pandemonium of the great hall, a crowd of officials escorting fuhuang out.
At that moment, he suddenly thought that if the evidence had pointed to He Yuan, would fuhuang have made the same decision?
He twisted his body and stopped fighting when he found that he couldn’t break free. He allowed the Imperial Guards to drag him away in a wretched state. He raised his head to look at the clear sky that stretched for thousands of miles. How did he lose?
Had he underestimated He Yuan’s intelligence, or was it that He Yuan was too smart that he had bought his act as just an arrogant and brash imperial son?
He lowered his head, the finely crafted white jade coronet in his hair dropping to the ground. Looking at the coronet on the black stone, he gave a low laugh.
[i]爱卿: term used by Emperors to refer to officials, usually those he is close to. The translation is beloved official.