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Chapter Eighty-Nine: Burial
The funeral bells rang out from the imperial palace and sounded seven times before stopping.
In the heavenly prison, the Empress sat dispiritedly on the ground. A moment later, she said, laughing and crying, “It’s over, all over.”
She had married the Emperor after coming of age and then became the empress later on before giving the Emperor children. She had been fated to a glorious life, but why did it suddenly reverse and she become imprisoned?
If the Empress Dowager were still alive, the Fang Family would have a chance. Now that the Empress Dowager was dead, everyone thought that it had been her who killed the Empress Dowager. Their entire Fang Family…
Before the Empress Dowager died, she had not forgotten to praise Xian Wang for being filial. So under the scribe’s pen, there was an additional line about Yan Jin Qiu.
The Empress Dowager said before death: “Ziling is a filial son. Aijia has no fears before death but is only worried about this one and hopes that the Emperor will treat him well.”
All of Jing put on their mourning attire. In order to show his filialness to the Empress Dowager, the Emperor disregarded his own status and put on hemp clothing for the Empress Dowager. He also stopped eating meat. Whenever he mentioned how well the Empress Dowager had treated him, he couldn’t help but sob loudly.
Qilong Emperor’s actions finally won him back some of his filial reputation. Even though many people still thought he was acting, at least it could pass on the surface.
The rumors about the Empress poisoning the Empress Dowager had been completely transformed as they spread. Maybe it was because people would innately have some respect for those who had passed away. Consequently, in these rumors, it was mostly how evil the Empress had been, and how hard it had been for the Empress Dowager to live alone in the palace.
There were also people who said that the Empress had purposefully had the Empress Dowager eat ginseng and other medicines that had gone bad, and had mistreated the Empress Dowager.
The Empress’ reputation dropped to a level of her being labeled a calamitous evil wife. Many storytellers described the Empress as a demoness who only knew to scheme and plan. Otherwise, how come the Crown Prince was so bad? It was because the Empress had not taught the Crown Prince well.
“People always like to blame the shortcomings of the child on the mother for not raising the child well. Yet if the child is outstanding, it would be because the father breeds true.” Hua Xi Wan played with the plain silver hairpin in her hand and slowly inserted it in her hair. She wiped away all the powder on her face. “While the Empress is not a good person, she is not as bad as the rumors say. She just…”
Hua Xi Wan suddenly stopped talking and looked at Yan Jin Qiu, who was beside her, dressed in hemp robes. “The rumors…”
“Nothing to do with me.” Yan Jin Qiu picked out a plain silver bangle to put on Hua Xi Wan’s hand and then looked at the three plain silver hairpins in her hair. “The Empress has already dropped so low; I will not waste energy acting against her.”
Hua Xi Wan smiled upon hearing this. “I’m not asking about this rumor, but the rumors about the imperial grandson.”
“That was a warning from the heavens.” Yan Jin Qiu adjusted his outer robe. While the hemp outer robe was rough, he was still wearing a comfortable silk robe under it, so it wasn’t too uncomfortable. “The people only like to believe what they think by themselves, and it doesn’t have much to do with me.”
“Haha.” Hua Xi Wan took off the plain silver bangle that Yan Jin Qiu had put on her and said, “It is the mourning period; this cannot be worn.”
Looking at Hua Xi Wan’s unmade face, Yan Jin Qiu sighed. “I always don’t bear for you to be the least bit slighted i.”
Hua Xi Wan smiled and reached out to pinch his ear. “Silver-tongued.”
He clasped Hua Xi Wan’s hand and then put a kiss on her cheek. “These are words from the heart.
“Have you ever heard a saying?”
Hua Xi Wan laughed and said, “Rather than believe a man’s mouth, believe that you will see ghosts in daylight.”
“Nonsense.” Yan Jin Qiu smiled helplessly. He hadn’t expected that Hua Xi Wan would dare to say such unconventional things. He reached out to pull her into his embrace. “Other people cannot hear you say such things.”
“You aren’t other people.” Hua Xi Wan threw a flirty look at him. Seeing Yan Jin Qiu’s gaze heat up, she pushed him away and stood up to neaten her clothing. “Wang Ye, prepare to enter the palace. This is the mourning period.”
Grimacing helplessly, Yan Jin Qiu stood. “I understand.”
The two of them had to go to the palace every day to cry for the Empress Dowager. Given the intense heat, the Imperial Astronomers calculated the day and decided to have the Empress Dowager be buried after fourteen days. That was already the closest auspicious date.
There were numerous basins of ice placed around the gold coffin of the Empress Dowager. When the ice was half melted, new ice had to be brought in to prevent the Empress Dowager’s corpse from rotting. But even so, when Hua Xi Wan walked into the hall, she still felt the mix of the fragrances and candles was uncomfortable.
She knelt on the prayer mat and listened to the sobs of the mourners. She threw the paper money in the basin. Through the flame, she glanced at the coffin of the Empress Dowager and felt a complex array of emotions. The Empress Dowager could be said to be one of the people who had laughed to the end. Who would have thought she would die like this?
She didn’t believe that the Empress was the one who did this. Maybe the Emperor also didn’t believe it, but the evidence for this crime was too complete. Maybe if the Emperor stood up to speak for the Empress and the case had no way of being reversed, then in the eyes of the people, the Emperor would be thought to be protecting the Empress and deliberately stalling for time.
The Empress had accompanied the Emperor for so many years. But now that someone had schemed against her, her man would not come out to speak for her out of fear that his reputation would be ruined.
A white figure knelt down next to Hua Xi Wan. She turned and glanced at the person. She lowered her head slightly. “Crown Princess.”
“Greetings, Xian Wang Fei.” The Crown Princess threw a few of the paper money into the burning basin and then used a handkerchief to touch her eyes that were red but empty of tears. “Wang Fei looks thinner—please take care of your body.”
“It was just because of not sleeping well these past days,” Hua Xi Wan said with lowered eyes. “Crown Princess, you have just given birth to the imperial grandson—why are you able to come here?” If she wasn’t wrong, the Crown Princess should still be in her recovery?
“I just wanted to see the Empress Dowager before she was buried.” After Lin shi said this, she threw another stack of paper money into the fire. Watching as the fire in the basin grew, she said expressionlessly, “When I heard that Wang Fei was here, I wanted to come and see even more.”
Hua Xi Wan did not know what her words meant so she remained silent.
“I heard that Wang Fei’s tang jie has become engaged to my elder brother?” Lin shi did not care that Hua Xi Wan was silent and spoke directly. “My brother is a reliable person. The Hua Family’s daughter does not have to worry about being slighted being married to him.”
Hua Xi Wan continued to burn paper so that the fire in the basin would not go out. “In this mourning hall, I think it is not appropriate to speak of this topic.”
“You are right.” Lin shi kowtowed three times to the Empress Dowager’s coffin and then threw all of the paper money in her hand into the basin. “It really is not the best time to speak of such joyful news here.”
Hua Xi Wan detected that something was wrong with the Crown Princess. After frowning, she hesitated and then said, “Crown Princess, please take care of yourself. His Highness the imperial grandson still needs you.”
Lin shi smiled. It really was inappropriate for this smile to appear in the mourning hall, but Hua Xi Wan saw the endless pain in this smile.
“I once thought that if I had not married into the Imperial Family, I would have been very happy to be close to a female like you.” Lin shi lightly grasped Hua Xi Wan’s hand. “But there are no maybes in this world. Xian Wang Fei, I hope that you will not be the same as us.”
After she said this, she stood up from the prayer mat, and made a deep bow to the Empress Dowager’s coffin before striding away.
“Crown Princess.” Hua Xi Wan detected that there really was something wrong. She turned back to look and only saw Lin shi’s determined and straight back.
She stilled for a while. When she turned and saw the fire in the basin was about to go out, she hurriedly threw some paper money in. Her brow unconsciously furrowed.
At this time, someone else knelt down next to her. It was Xu Wang Shizi Fei. The two of them nodded at each other and then started to silently do this boring duty.
One hour later, Ning Wang Shizi Fei and Sheng Junwang Fei took over their positions and they could finally slowly walk out of the mourning hall on numb legs. There were many more members of the Imperial House waiting outside. Each of them had sorrowful expressions, as though the Empress Dowager had been someone extremely important to them.
Yan Jin Qiu saw Hua Xi Wan walk out moving awkwardly and knew that her knees were in discomfort after kneeling for so long. He couldn’t resist helping her to sit on one of the wooden chairs. But in public, he couldn’t do anything else and only touched the palm of her hand lightly.
Xu Wang Shizi Fei sat down on the opposite side. She and Hua Xi Wan exchanged a look and the two exchanged nods again.
Xu Wang Shizi Fei thought, if this was not the mourning hall for the Empress Dowager, Xian Wang probably couldn’t resist massaging Xian Wang Fei’s knees for her. She had originally thought that Xian Wang was insincere towards Xian Wang Fei, but now she thought that if this was not true love, then Xian Wang was too scary. Because how vicious could a person be to themselves if they could act like this?
After the younger members of the Imperial House finished their shifts in kneeling, they would return to their fu on carriages with white lanterns before repeating this whole process on the next day.
The day when the Empress Dowager was buried, the weather was exceptionally clear. The sun in the sky was enough to bake people.
Hua Xi Wan and Yan Jin Qiu sat on the carriage. Whenever the procession stopped, they had to get off the carriage to kneel until the official of rites said they could rise before they could get on the carriage and move forward again.
After doing this for half of the way, Hua Xi Wan felt that she was being dried into human jerky. She secretly took a few drinks of cold tea inside the carriage before she felt better.
After transporting the coffin into the imperial tomb, the Empress Dowager was buried with the previous emperor with the name of Benevolent and Harmonious Empress Dowager. When the doors to the emperor’s tomb were closed, all of the people who had come performed the three bows and nine kowtows. The Emperor recited a prayer that he had written before ordering everyone to rise.
Before getting on the carriage, Hua Xi Wan couldn’t help but look at the emperor’s tomb behind them. She felt unspeakably bleak.
“Careful of your step.” Yan Jin Qiu held her hand lightly and said gently, “It is hot outside, go in.”
Turning back to look at the man beside her, Hua Xi Wan smiled and then stepped onto the stool to get into the carriage.
Yan Jin Qiu followed in. When he entered, he saw Hua Xi Wan’s forehead beaded in sweat and took out a brocade handkerchief hidden in his sleeve. He wiped the sweat carefully from her face. “Have a good nap when we get back.”
Hua Xi Wan reached to grip his hand and said with a smile, “All right.”
Translator Ramblings: Funerals are hard enough without adding on physical suffering.