By the time Xiao Hua rushed over, the Jing Emperor was already there. Yi Yi had also been rescued from the water.
The child was completely soaked and coughing non-stop, spitting out water. Zhuo’er stood on the side and repeatedly called out “little sis”, his little face turning red from worry.
“Concubine, the eldest princess is fine. She was rescued the moment she fell into the water…..”
Xiao Hua immediately let out a breath, and went over to her daughter who was in the Jing Emperor’s arms. She stroked her face and only then started crying.
The imperial physician arrived very quickly. After a careful examination, he said there weren’t any major issues. She should take a hot bath after getting back, eat some lighter foods and drink a bowl of ginger soup. If she doesn’t get a fever in the middle of the night, everything will be fine.
At some point, all the officials and outer titled women had been sent out. Only the palace maids and eunuchs who had been present at the time remained, as well as the empress and the concubines.
“Just what exactly happened?”
All the palace maids and eunuchs were on their knees. Eunuch Fu summarized things with a dark expression. Only then did Xiao Hua know how Yi Yi managed to fall into the water when she went over to the Jing Emperor’s side.
It turns out that after she went over, she got bored of sitting there and pulled her brother along to play. The Jing Emperor saw that there were many servants following behind them and thus permitted it.
But Yi Yi was naughty, and seeing the moon’s reflection in the water as well as the pretty ripples, her heart had stirred. Then seeing the countless lanterns in the water, she went over to the water’s edge and asked the palace maids to grab a lantern for her.
There were around ten people who were waiting on the two children. Everything had been fine. Ding Xiang and the rest of the people with the children had been repeatedly warned to guard them carefully today, thus surrounded the two tightly.
But somehow, the eldest princess ended up falling into the water.
“Concubine, someone, someone pushed us.”
Ding Lan was also completely soaked. When the eldest princess fell into the water, she was the first one who noticed and jumped in to lift her up. This was why Yi Yi wasn’t hurt too badly, and only choked on some water. It was cold by the lake to begin with, and the wind was blowing. After they got out of the water, everyone had rushed to check on the eldest princess and completely forgot about Ding Lan on the side. At this moment, she was shivering from the cold.
Xiao Hua had someone bring Ding Lan some warm clothing. Ding Lan draped it over herself and continued speaking: “This servant was standing behind the eldest princess when someone suddenly pushed from behind. The eldest princess ended up getting bumped off. This servant saw things weren’t good and jumped in after her.”
“This servant was behind Auntie Ding Lan, and was pushed over by someone behind. “ One of Yi Yi’s palace maids called Yu Chuan said.
“This servant was also shoved….”
Once everyone finished speaking, Xiao Hua finally understood how Yi Yi ended up in the water.
This was the princess and crown prince’s first time attending such a banquet. Xiao Hua had been afraid something would happen, and ordered everyone to keep an eye on them.
Her subordinates had done their best, but this was also their first time and they weren’t experienced enough. The eldest princess wanted to go to the lakeside and they couldn’t stop her. Therefore, they had surrounded her tightly, deeply afraid something would happen.
Although their thoughts were good, they had forgotten to watch their backs. One of them had been ruthlessly shoved by someone and fell forward. The tight group caused a domino effect which caused the eldest princess who was in the very front to fall in.
“This servant truly wasn’t aware, otherwise I definitely wouldn’t have fallen forward. Things had happened too suddenly.” The low-ranked eunuch who was pushed was crying until his face was full of snot and tears. “However, this servant’s reactions were quick. Feeling something wasn’t right, I managed to grab that person. It was that person who pushed this servant.”
Xiao Hua followed the low-ranked Eunuch’s pointing finger and saw an ordinary looking palace maid around twenty years old who was being restrained by others.
Seeing the senior concubine look over, that palace maid cried out in fear, “This servant is being unjustly blamed. This servant really didn’t push him. This servant was walking while carrying alcohol and wine when someone bumped into her. This servant lost her balance and fell over. The spilled alcohol and dishes on the floor are proof….”
When this palace maid was asked who it was that bumped her, she wasn’t able to clearly say it. She only cried and said that there had been too many people around and she really didn’t see it….
In this short period of time, they weren’t able to figure anything out. Yi Yi had recovered her spirits and cried while hugging Xiao Hua.
“Take the two children back first. Leave the rest for Us to handle.”
The Jing Prince’s face was cold and stern, his apathetic gaze seemed to have iced over. Xiao Hua nodded, leaving with the two children and the palace maids.
After returning to the Chenxi Palace, Xiao Hua held Yi Yi and comforted her for a long time before she finally fell asleep. Looking at her son’s worried face, she knew he had also been frightened.
“Mom, why would someone push me and little sis?”
Xiao Hua froze and pulled her son into her arms. She didn’t know what she should say.
“If it wasn’t for Xiao De Zi1, Zhuo’er definitely would have fallen in as well.”
“Zhuo’er, you don’t need to think too much. You’re still young and shouldn’t have to worry about such things. Father will protect you guys. Mother concubine will as well.”
Zhuo’er didn’t continue asking, but he seemed to be lost in thought.
After coaxing her son to sleep, Xiao Hua looked at the two for a long, long time. Looking at their jade-like little faces under the lamplight, her heart was inconceivably soft.
Who could have been responsible?
Actually there were only those few suspects, or perhaps just one…..
The Jing Emperor returned before long.
He sat next to Xiao Hua and held her hand, “The children were frightened.”
Xiao Hua squeezed his hand. She wanted to give him a smile but found it was a little difficult. She leaned weakly in the Jing Emperor’s arms.
“Have you managed to figure out what had happened?”
The Jing Emperor’s gaze darkened, “Although there isn’t any concrete evidence, it was probably done by the Xiao clan, or perhaps by the royal concubine or the empress.”
“The Xiao clan?” Xiao Hua muttered.
“Alright, you don’t have to worry about this. We will handle it.”
Xiao Hua nodded and didn’t speak further.
In the middle of the night, Ding Xiang came and reported that the eldest princess had gotten a fever.
Xiao Hua and the Jing Emperor put on their clothes and hurried to the side hall. Yi Yi’s little face was red from fever. There were palace maids on the side helping her cool off with towels.
The two children were both awake. Zhuo’er sat on the side watching his sister. Yi Yi saw that Xiao Hua had come and stretched out her arms, asking to be held. The child was uncomfortable due to fever, and let out little whines as she cried quietly.
“You naughty little thing, you just had to go play by the water…..”
Xiao Hua held her daughter’s burning body and her own tears flowed from heartache.
After her daughter was born, she was always rather obedient and rarely got sick. She was just a little naughty. But she was also exceptionally bright and cute. It was all because of her, because she had become an eyesore for others, which caused her daughter to suffer all this….
“Mom, Yi Yi doesn’t feel good….”
“There, there. Let’s drink some medicine and it’ll be better in the morning.”
Yi Yi finished drinking her medicine and continued to fuss. Xiao Hua saw that her son’s eyes had turned red and had Ding Xiang bring him to the other room to sleep. She held her daughter and comforted her for a long time before Yi Yi fell asleep.
“Majesty, you should hurry and rest. You still have court in the morning.”
The Jing Emperor didn’t speak but he also didn’t leave.
Looking at his stubborn gaze, Xiao Hua could only pull him onto the bed. The two of them lay in bed with Yi Yi for a while, keeping watch over their daughter at the same time.
Although the Jing Emperor didn’t say anything, she could tell from his gaze that his heart was aching as well.
The next day, the Jing Emperor went to court. Xiao Hua saw that her daughter’s fever had faded and instructed the palace maids to take care of her carefully. Only after having Ding Xiang stay behind as well did she feel at ease enough to go back and rest in her room.
She had only slept a short while when Chun Cao came and reported that the eldest princess had woken up and was calling for her mother.
When she went to the side hall, Yi Yi was sitting in bed with eyes full of panic. She started crying the moment she saw Xiao Hua.
“Mom, Yi Yi is scared….”
“Good child, don’t be scared. Don’t be scared. Mom is here….”
The imperial physician came very quickly. After examining, he said that the eldest princess had suffered a fright, and prescribed a calming medicine that was suitable for children. He explained that she’d get better after a few days of care.
Despite his words, Yi Yi had become extremely timid after her fever faded and her body became healthy again. She would stick very closely to Xiao Hua, and whenever she couldn’t see her she would start crying. Xiao Hua could only stay with her every day, but also had to worry about her second son who only turned a month old not long ago. Soon, she started losing weight.
The Jing Prince felt both heartache and anger as he watched. His face had gotten even colder over the past few days as he gave off an unapproachable air. The court was also recently extremely quiet. Everyone seemed to know that his majesty was fidgety over what happened with the eldest princess, and no one dared to make trouble at this time.
Eunuch Fu had a similarly unpleasant expression.
He had been chasing after a wild goose the entire day but ended up being pecked blind by it. He had investigated the situation, and when he finally found the perpetrator, all that remained was a corpse.
The trail was completely cut off. However, perhaps due to his experience when he was younger, Eunuch Fu could be quite unreasonable at times. Seeing the person’s corpse, he had merely laughed coldly a couple of times. He didn’t say anything else before dragging out everyone who had dealings with this person in the last half a month.
Those who had witnesses were asked to testify, those who had met the person by themselves were all dragged out and beaten to death.
This scene was extremely grand. People were summoned from the entire palace, from the lowest ranked sweeper area all the way up to the esteemed office of the palace, to come observe. They actually carried it out right in front of the doors of the justice department.
In a place like the imperial palace, there had never been a lack of capital punishments, and these punishments were often also for personal reasons. There were all sorts of methods used to keep people in line. But usually, these would be carried out in private, and it was very rare that twenty to thirty people would be beaten to death at once while others were called to “observe”.
They weren’t allowed to close their eyes, and had to watch with eyes wide open. The point was to make them thoroughly remember who could be touched and who couldn’t. It also proved that even though they could erase the evidence, they still needed to communicate their orders. To communicate required their people to act, right? It’s fine if the mastermind couldn’t be found, he’ll just cast a huge net and drag everyone in.
The masters may not hurt from this, but the lives of servants are still lives. Would they not be afraid to lose it?
The day of the execution, not only Eunuch Fu was present. The prime senior concubine had come as well. She didn’t say anything, and even when Eunuch Fu stood at the front to “warn” the others, she still sat there on her throne. She only sat there and watched.
The palace maids and eunuchs who had initially objected to Eunuch Fu’s actions immediately quietened down. They stood there and honestly watched as the people were beaten to death. The dull thuds rang out over and over into their ears.
Soon, the ground became saturated with blood. Only then did Xiao Hua get on her carriage and leave majestically with her procession.
She returned to the Chenxi Palace and got off the carriage. Only after entering the main hall did she cover her mouth and start retching.
The watching palace maids fetched water and a bucket. Ding Xiang stood by her side and helped her catch her breath with a heavy heart.
“Concubine, why must you do this to yourself?”
Xiao Hua didn’t say anything, leaning against the couch with a weary expression.
For someone like her who had been beaten to death in her past life, nothing affected her more than hearing the dull thuds and watching someone get beaten to a pulp.
But she had to go today. She had to!
For the sake of displaying her attitude to others while also telling herself that she couldn’t just blindly hide behind his majesty, blindly yield and retreat. There were plenty of enemies inside this palace, and just because she yielded doesn’t mean her enemies would. It was a situation where both sides couldn’t coexist to begin with. No need to pretend everything was fine.
The Jing Emperor was aware of Eunuch Fu’s actions, and he also tacitly approved of them. Otherwise, how could a general manager eunuch like Eunuch Fu stir up such a fuss without reservations?
But Xiao Hua’s actions had truly shocked him. When he received the report, he put down the accounting ledger in his hands and hurried to the Chenxi Palace.
When he entered, the first thing he saw was her emaciated and pale face as she lay there wearily.
Xiao Hua opened her eyes when she sensed someone sitting down next to her.
He stroked her face and didn’t say anything. Having shared a bed for so long and had a few children together, he naturally knew what she was thinking.
He just felt his heart ache, felt that he was a little useless. Despite all his precautions, someone had still managed to get through. He had thought as the ruler under the heavens, he could give her a stable and peaceful life, a comfortable environment and allow her to smile without worries. But he realized that even the emperor was helpless against these things.
“Give Us some time. We won’t let the Xiao clan off.”
This was an emperor’s vow, so he used the royal “We”.
Xiao Hua also nodded solemnly, and said: “You have your methods, and I have mine as well. You won’t stop me?”
“They aren’t worth your efforts.”
“But I wish to vent my anger….”
Xiao Hua buried her face into the Jing Emperor’s chest, “If I become someone different one day, someone not like my current self, would Sir Jing still treat me the same as before?”
“Of course, I will.”
Because many things had happened between these two people, their feelings had already been carved deeply into their bones.
Unless they peeled their skin off, broke the bones, ground them into dust and destroyed their memories….the memories of the disregard at their first meeting, their secret thoughts and self-restraint that followed, the initial stirrings of their heart that was based on lust, the first time she had cried in his chest, her happiness when she first got pregnant, the thoughts of wanting to keep her hidden, the little details after giving birth, all the way until the things that happened in the East Yuling alley….only if all this were to be erased…..
Otherwise, how could he treat her any differently? She was herself, and wouldn’t be anyone else.
It wasn’t her appearance or her personality. It was all the little bits and pieces they had shared together. The beautiful memories they made together that could never be duplicated.
Don’t say this author is simply too cruel. I feel under the circumstances when no evidence could be found, this way is more satisfying. They can’t just resign themselves, right?
This author still remembers something my cousin once said. He didn’t say it to me, but I don’t remember what the circumstances were…..”If someone provokes you, you either endure or you beat him until his eyes are black, and until he gives you a wide berth in the future, not daring to provoke you anymore….”
These words left quite an impression on this author. Simply too violent.
For the same reason, now the servants would have to think things through before going along with their master’s schemes. Of course, this is just treating the symptoms but not the cause. Treating the cause is still underway.