Chapter 168

Winter turned to Spring and the year started anew.

This New Year’s, the crown prince’s faction was especially sullen. The crown prince was confined for a month and only released towards the end of the year. This matter still wasn’t over yet. As long as the Jin Prince’s leg remained unhealed, the crown prince needed to lower his head and behave.

The Qi Prince was summoned back to the capital and caused another ruckus. He had always been hot-headed. Hearing that the Jin Prince’s leg was broken due to the crown prince, he harassed the recently released crown prince, demanding an explanation. But what explanation was there to give? The crown prince was also sullen. Someone slightly more reasonable wouldn’t have made things awkward by causing a ruckus. But if the Qi Prince was reasonable, he wouldn’t have done so to begin with.

The Qi Prince was ultimately restrained. His actions caused another round of waves in the matter which had finally calmed down previously. This only gradually faded when the New Year arrived. However, the haze still remained.

Time slowly passed and several months went by in the blink of an eye. The crown prince’s faction remained sullen but since they were lacking in confidence it wasn’t convenient to speak up. They could only wait for the Jin Prince’s leg to heal before dealing with what needed to be dealt with.

The idea was good but reality was cruel. What happened next inflicted heavy damage on the crown prince’s faction once again.

The Jin Prince’s leg healed but the injury left behind some issues. The Jin Prince actually became lame?!

It wasn’t very serious, just a little limp. It wasn’t apparent when standing but once he walked it was obvious.

This was like a bolt from the blue. Not only did Senior Concubine Xu and the Jin Prince feel the heavens were collapsing, even the crown prince’s faction was dazed by this bolt and unable to react.

Lame?

If this were before, the crown prince’s faction would love to see the Jin Prince in tragic circumstances. Now, however? Don’t joke around. The crown prince and Empress Xiao were definitely the ones who most wanted the Jin Prince to be perfectly fine.

They were feeling wrongly accused to begin with and had a bucket of feces dunked on them. Now, that bucket couldn’t be removed!

Senior Concubine Xu was inconsolable, crying like her mom had died. Emperor Xi had an ugly expression for several days, and would flip out at minor things. The court and the rear palace seemed to be overcast. The palace maids, eunuchs and offiicals all shrunk their necks and behaved.

The Jin Prince had suffered a blow and shut himself away in the Jin Prince Estate. Senior Concubine Xu was heartbroken but she knew there was no use in just being sad. The entire imperial medical center’s imperial physicians had been sent to treat the Jin Prince.

The results were extremely not ideal.

They had said that a broken bone depended on luck to heal. With luck, there wouldn’t be any issues remaining. Without luck, it wasn’t rare for the leg to become lame or crippled. Now that he was lame, how were they supposed to cure him? Could they break his leg once again, and then reattach it?

Without mentioning how unorthodox tht would be, no imperial physician had such abilities. Furthermore, when news of his lameness was announced, the imperial physicians who examined him that day were all executed by Emperor Xi. No one dared get involved with this matter anymore. It wasn’t like they were tired of living.

The crown prince was now screwed. Emperor Xi vented his anger on him frequently and any explanation was useless.

This matter made the circumstances in the capital interesting. No one dared to suggest having the Jin Prince return to his vassal state during this sensitive time. The crown prince’s faction could only continue to behave.

Of course there were inevitably doubts. How could the Jin Prince happen to be so unfortunate and become lame? Was something fishy going on?

To dispel their doubts and also to maintain appearances, the crown prince’s faction searched everywhere for skilled doctors to examine the Jin Prince’s leg. Emperor Xi also proclaimed that anyone who could treat the Jin Prince’s leg would be awarded two thousand taels of gold and be accepted into the imperial medical center.

Unfortunately, no “famous doctor” appeared who could treat his leg. Famous doctors intermittently came to the door, but they were either there to try and get famous or to try and get rich. Such people were seen being kicked out of the Jin Prince Estate every now and then.

Of course this was all just on the surface. The Jin Prince didn’t stop doing what he needed to do in secret. The crown prince’s faction also gradually felt a few things. Without mentioning anything else, several households who used to be on their side suddenly changed their attitudes.

Why their attitudes changed was worth consideration. However, they couldn’t find any evidence of the Jin Prince’s side privately establishing relationships with officials.

The crown prince’s faction seemed like they had a fly in their mouth. They couldn’t swallow it or spit it out, and could only remain in a deadlock.

July arrived.

These months were like a nightmare to the crown prince. He wasn’t a steady person to begin with and it was a miracle for him to have endured for so long.

While the crown prince seemed to be enduring on the surface, he revealed a few things in private. He became more and more violent, and would often flip out whenever he was in a bad mood. Of course he wouldn’t reveal this outside, but within the eastern palace, almost everyone was avoiding him, deeply afraid of being whipped by the increasingly irritable crown prince.

In the Fengqi Palace.

All the palace maids had left, leaving only Empress Xiao and the crown prince.

“Mother empress, your son doesn’t want to endure any longer. The Jin Prince is so shameless. This humble one can guarantee that no matter what doctor we find, his leg still wouldn’t be cured. He’s clearly pretending!”

“Zhao’er, mother can understand your feelings. But the closer we get to the end, the more we have to endure. Your impetuousness won’t do us any good. What we rely on now is our patience. You must adjust your temper. The palace is filled with talk of your violent temper, having palace maids and eunuchs whipped for no reason. You even had Imperial Tutor Bai beaten the day before….you’re breaking your mother’s heart with worry….”

Empress Xiao sat on the phoenix throne, her heart and soul weary. The pitch black hair from the past had turned white on the sides.

The crown prince paced back and forth like a caged animal, his fists clenching and unclenching.

“He deserved a beating, lecturing this humble one all day, telling this humble one to endure all day….endure….I’ve endured……”

He mumbled neurotically, the whip in his hand striking at the red carpet on the floor. After a few strokes, the fine Persian rug was left full of marks.

Empress Xiao’s insides split as she watched. She knew her son had a restless personality, and that he was unsteady. He had suffered quite a lot of humiliation in this past year. Although his majesty didn’t say it, his gaze grew more and more frightening every day. It was clearly full of loathing for Zhao’er.

Even if she tried harder, she wouldn’t be able to resolve things. As of now, Empress Xiao could no longer confidently say she understood Emperor Xi. The man whom she married when they were both teenagers had become extremely frightening, his mood changing with the weather. It wasn’t clear if it was related to his health, or whether it was because he knew he didn’t have much time left.

Empress Xiao thought that it probably had to do with both, but she was helpless. She no longer had the energy to worry about Emperor Xi. She couldn’t even take care of her own son, and there was still the Jin Prince who was messing things up on the side.

“Zhao’er, don’t be like this. Mother empress will definitely think of a way to deal with the Jin Prince.”

“Mother empress, you have to think faster, think faster, faster…..kill him, once he’s dead, killed off…this humble one doesn’t want to see him anymore. He limps around in front of this humble one every day, limping around in front of royal father…..this humble one wants him dead, dead…..”

The crown prince’s gaze froze, his mouth continuously repeating the same thing. Suddenly, his eyes shone with a peculiar light.

“Mother empress, wouldn’t you say that if we killed him off, this humble one would naturally become the emperor?”

The crown prince suddenly spoke, his voice exceedingly low. He let out a neurotic smile, looking both sinister and nefarious. The quiet words echoed around the hall, adding a few degrees of eeriness.

Empress Xiao couldn’t help but shiver, squeezing out her words through her throat, “Who? Who are you talking about?”

“Who am I talking about?” The crown prince suddenly yelled loudly before muttering in a low voice once again, “Yes, this is a great plan. Killing him off would naturally make this humble one the emperor…..”

Empress Xiao turned pale with fright as she rushed forward and held the crown prince fast, “Zhao’er, snap out of it. Such thoughts are heresy. He is your royal father….”

The crown prince’s gaze snapped back into focus, his appearance becoming normal. He patted Empress Xiao and said softly: “Mother empress, do you feel like he’s treating me as a son? Do you? At this rate, the Jin Prince’s power will only continue to grow, and our chances of victory continues to diminish. We might as well take care of things earlier. He doesn’t have much time left anyone, it’s no big deal if it happens a little earlier. It’s the one last thing he can do for his son…..”

“Is this….ok……?”

Hearing these words, Empress Xiao’s eyes were vacant. The words were mumbled and her hand involuntarily clenched and unclenched.

“It’s ok, mother empress.”

Seeing Empress Xiao’s attitude wavering, the crown prince seized upon it like a lifeline. “Mother empress, this humble one is still the crown prince today. If he dies, it’s only natural for me to inherit the throne. If he suddenly changes his mind and strips this humble one’s position and gives it to the Jin Prince, it’ll be too late.”

The crown prince’s words weighed heavily on Empress Xiao. She should have scoffed at this possibility, but the current her no longer had the confidence to do so.

Emperor Xi’s temper was too weird recently, making his thoughts impossible to figure out. He seemed to favor the Jin Prince a lot….if the Jin Prince’s leg turned out to be fine, would he end up handing Zhao’er’s position to him….or was this a plan he and that bitch surnamed Xu had cooked up all along to swindle her and Zhao’er….

Empress Xiao looked at her son’s excited face and bloodshot eyes.

Zhao’er was under too much pressure…..

Rumors were going around the palace recently about the crown prince’s viciousness. Empress Xiao had tried to suppress them several times but hadn’t been successful. There was even an imperial censor who moved to impeach the crown prince for his lack of morals a couple days ago…..

The crown prince getting impeached was Empress Xiao’s biggest taboo and her biggest fear. The Grand Xi Dynasty had always emphasized the principal wife and seniority. As long as he was the crown prince, if there wasn’t sufficient reason, even Emperor Xi couldn’t randomly strip him of his title. Impeachment due to lack of morals was one way it could happen…

This was also why Empress Xiao continuously asked the crown prince to endure. The crown prince couldn’t make mistakes. Any mistake would be magnified endlessly. There would be those trying to fish in troubled waters. Those who supported their side would waver, giving those with designs an opportunity.

But the Jin Prince’s injury kept adding onto the crown prince’s worsening reputation, and along with his unsteady temperament, Empress Xiao could sense the voices crying for impeachment grow louder….currently there was only one imperial censor behind it, but Empress Xiao believed there would only be more people over time, whether or not there was someone egging them on…..

Could they still endure?

Should they still endure?

For some reason, Empress Xiao actually felt a thrill in her heart upon hearing her son’s words!

But she had always been cautious, and would think things through carefully. Despite knowing her answer in her heart, she still said: “Let your mother empress think it over. You can’t do anything until I’m done. Behave, and don’t provoke anymore trouble….”

The crown prince looked closely at Empress Xiao’s face, and slowly nodded…

*

Senior Concubine Xu and the Jin Prince were naturally involved in the spreading rumors of the crown prince’s violent temper and random beating of palace maids and eunuchs.

It was also the crown prince’s fault for falling short. If he didn’t do anything that could be criticized, there wouldn’t have been a problem. Since he offered himself up, they would naturally make good use of it.

Senior Concubine Xu and the Jin Prince were very smug. Their chances of victory continued to grow. That foolish crown prince was still digging his own grave. No matter how calculating that Empress Xiao was, she couldn’t make up for her disappointing son.

When the crown prince opened his mouth and demanded Imperial Physician Zhou’s family, Chen Qi had a bad premonition.

Unfortunately his profile was too high, making it impossible to secretly contact Imperial Physician Zhou. He could only watch worriedly. Luckily Imperial Physician Zhou had other means on his side so they didn’t need to fear the crown prince’s schemes.

Having once again been taken by people into a dark room, Imperial Physician Zhou was no longer surprised this time. He first wondered if Chen Qi or Yang Hui was up to something, but seeing the neat yet oppressive old face, he knew things weren’t so simple.

As expected, Imperial Physician Zhou was completely stupefied after the Jingguo Duke finished speaking.

If he hadn’t gotten used to acting due to being watched by Emperor Xi recently, he might have let something slip.

“If you don’t have enough time to react properly, just act according to your nature. That way you won’t give anything away. Just make sure to watch your words….”

The words of that ordinary looking man suddenly rang out in Imperial Physician Zhou’s mind.

He quickly erected his brows and glared, reprimanding: “Jingguo Duke. You are his majesty’s personally conferred duke. You should know such thoughts are enough to have your entire clan exterminated!”

Because Imperial Physician Zhou was too shocked, he wasn’t able to steady his shaken mind and the skin on his face started trembling. His lips were also pale, and even his pointed finger couldn’t avoid it. Despite forcing himself to stand calmly, he was unable to conceal his panic any longer.

“Imperial Physician Zhou, this old man won’t speak any empty words with you. Your entire family is in this old man’s hands. Don’t think about trying anything, you have no choice but to comply!”

“You-”

“Actually you could look at it from a different perspective. Once the crown prince inherits the throne, you would be his greatest contributor. No wealth or status would be out of reach.”

“I, I can’t….”

“Imperial Physician Zhou. Don’t be in such a hurry to reject this old man. Think it over carefully. Don’t end up harming your own family.”

Imperial Physician Zhou’s eyes suddenly widened and he spat out a mouthful of blood in anger before fainting from overstimulation.

The Jing Duke looked at him emotionally and shook his head, “Why so stubborn? Didn’t you already betray him once? What’s the harm in doing it a second time…..”

After waiting for a while, he raised his voice and said: “Men, take Imperial Physician Zhou back.”

*

The Jin Prince’s group weren’t aware of the things happening in the dark.

Since they had the advantage, they just had to wait for things to be in place. When the time came, his leg would be healed. Then, they would have the crown prince impeached and stripped of his position, which would be given to the Jin Prince.

This matter wasn’t urgent. It was best if they could drive the crown prince insane. The Jin Prince was very entertained by the show.

However, they had forgotten something. They could scheme but others could scheme as well. The winner would be decided by who was more capable, and there were still many variables in play.

Everything that happened to Imperial Physician Zhou was quickly sent to the Jing Province.

The Jing Prince pondered things in his study for an entire night before sending back orders to the capital.

When Imperial Physician Zhou received the orders, he couldn’t sleep the entire night. The next day, he asked for an audience with Emperor Xi in the Violet Imperial Hall.

“What did you say?”

An emperor’s fury leads to a field of corpses.

This was Imperial Physician Zhou’s first time seeing Emperor Xi so severely furious. However, he could only close his eyes, grit his teeth and continue his performance.

“Ever since that time, this servant has been full of regret and unable to sleep soundly. Your majesty’s generosity has always been in my mind. Therefore, this servant won’t make the same mistake this time. Even if my entire family gets killed off, I won’t cower back.”

“Good, very good…..” Emperor Xi rubbed the blue and while little porcelain bottle on the desk, his face neutral, his expression hard to interpret but extremely gloomy. “We remember that your entire family had already died, and the funeral was even arranged by Zheng Hai Quan. How are they being used to threaten you again?”

Hearing this, Zheng Hai Quan who had been standing there this entire time immediately knelt and said while kowtowing, “This old servant went to see those bodies, and although they were burnt beyond recognition, they were indeed a man and woman, as well as an old one and a young one. This old servant doesn’t know anything else.”

Imperial Physician Zhou’s expression was gloomy, his tears and snot had long since covered his face.

“This servant also doesn’t understand how it happened, but the people they showed this servant this time truly were this servant’s family….”

“Humph, how crafty. Even Our people were fooled by them…..”

The muttered words from above caused Zheng Hai Quan and Imperial Physician Zhou below to sprawl on the floor silently, not daring to speak.

“This thing was also given to you by them?”

Imperial Physician Zhou glanced at the porcelain bottle and lowered his head once more, “Yes.”

“What did they say to you for you to use this thing to harm Us?”

“This—-”

“Tell me whatever they said. We will not ask for your head.”

Imperial Physician Zhou hesitated over and over before deciding to speak: “This servant scolded the Jingguo Duke for his disgraceful behavior. Perhaps in an attempt to convince this servant, the Jingguo Duke said a few things….he said, he said that your majesty was old and confused, unable to recognize the suspiciousness of the Jin Prince’s actions as he continuously pressures the crown prince. In order to avoid issues from arising, he said they might as well get it over with sooner, sooner rather than later….he also said that they weren’t the only ones with such thoughts. He said once the Jin Prince obtains the crown prince’s position, the Jin Prince would do the exact same thing, and in fact, would be much quicker about it….he also said the Jin Prince was extremely shameless. For the sake of the throne, he continuously framed the crown prince and used your majesty’s favor as a gambling chip. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have had to resort to this scheme….”

There was a spell of silence above. It was so silent that panic arose in their hearts.

Suddenly, Emperor Xi loudly laughed a few times.

“What marvelous justification. His explanation works quite well. Coming up with a righteous reason for his disgraceful behavior…..great, hahaha, what great sons We have….”

The sound of footsteps faded into the inner hall. Imperial Physician Zhou remained flat on the floor, not daring to raise his head. Only when Zheng Hai Quan got up and followed did he realize his majesty had left.

Without anyone telling him to rise, he didn’t dare to get up. He could only remain kneeling on the cold and hard floor, waiting for his fate.

Imperial Physician Zhou didn’t know how long he knelt there. His mind was a mess and he almost couldn’t hold on any longer when he heard the sound of footsteps.

“Hurry and get up, Imperial Physician Zhou. His majesty calls you inside.” Zheng Hai Quan said softly, and helped him up. Seeing this elderly man being tormented by his majesty’s affairs to the point he wanted to die, Zheng Hai Quan still felt some sympathy.

But it was at most sympathy, because he knew he wasn’t any better off himself!

Imperial Physician Zhou entered the inner hall and didn’t come out for a long while. After he came out, he couldn’t help but wipe some sweat off his brow.

He finally managed to get through it all!

But as he thought of what was to come, Imperial Physician Zhou couldn’t help but laugh bitterly.

***

Time continued to pass like a flowing river, without making any great waves.

Everything seemed to be the same as before, but something was different.

The crown prince was extremely silent recently, as though his violent behavior from before was just an illusion. As for the Jin Prince, he remained in his estate quietly recuperating, but only a few people knew what he was up to in private.

On this day, Emperor Xi fainted in court, shaking everyone.

Zheng Hai Quan instructed people to carry Emperor Xi back to the Violet Imperial Hall via his royal carriage. Before long, Empress Xiao and the crown prince hurried over.

By the time Senior Concubine Xu and the Jin Prince caught wind of it, the imperial physician had already finished his treatment. Empress Xiao sat beside the royal bed, her tears flowing unceasingly and her expression sorrowful.

“Majesty, what’s happened to you—”

With a howl, Senior Concubine Xu sprawled beside the bed and started crying, her voice sad and beautiful, like raindrops on a pear blossom.

Empress Xiao gave her a glance of disgust and felt like throwing up, “What are you crying for? His majesty hasn’t died yet!”

“This servant concubine is just too worried about his majesty….”

The Jin Prince stood anxiously on the side, “Where are the imperial physicians? Empress, what did the physicians say?”

“The imperial physician said that due to your father consuming pills in his youth, the harmful side effects built up and were never cleansed. Things flared up this time and the situation isn’t good.”

“Then why isn’t father waking up?”

“The physician said that after fainting his royal body is overly frail….”

The Jin Prince was going to speak further but was interrupted by Empress Xiao’s gesture.

“His majesty needs some time to recuperate. How is he supposed to do so when one is crying and one is pressing for answers?! Why don’t you take your leave?”

Senior Concubine Xu gave the Jin Prince a glance. The two of them turned around and left.

Once they returned to the Chunluan Palace, the Jin Prince said: “This prince gets the feeling father’s flare up this time isn’t quite right. Does mother concubine know which physicians diagnosed him?”

Senior Concubine Xu knitted her willow brows, “It was still that Imperial Physician Zhou. The empress says that his majesty trusts him, and he has treated your father’s royal body by himself for a while without being switched off.”

The Jin Prince’s prominent brows also furrowed, and he paced back and forth within the hall before saying: “We can’t leave things this way. How can father’s royal body be left to a single imperial physician to treat? Mother concubine, have your subordinates investigate. We also need to find another trusted imperial physician to treat father along with Imperial Physician Zhou.”

“You mother naturally knows, but if there truly was something going on, the empress’s side won’t agree to it so easily.”

“It’s better to try first and see.”

***

Emperor Xi remained unconscious. Empress Xiao took it upon herself to feed him medicine daily and remained awake nightly. Before long, she had become quite thin.

Senior Concubine Xu wanted to take the opportunity to care for him a couple of days, but was stopped by the empress. She said that her husband was seriously ill, and that caring for him as his principal wife was her duty. Even if she had to do it for the rest of her life, she was willing.

Senior Concubine Xu’s teeth itched with resentment.

But she also couldn’t say anything. To put it plainly, Empress Xiao was this rear palace’s mistress. As for her, even if she was the senior concubine, she was at most a high ranking concubine in the eyes of others.

When Emperor Xi was awake, she could use his favor to rival the empress. Without Emperor Xi present, she was nothing. She couldn’t go against Empress Xiao’s orders.

These days several low-ranked concubines would come to the Violet Imperial Hall to pay their respects. They would cry incessantly. All the rear palace’s women had the same thought at the moment. Whether or not they were favored, no one wanted anything to happen to Emperor Xi. When his majesty was there, they were imperial concubines. Once his majesty passes away, they would become concubines to a deceased emperor. Even those with no children didn’t know how they would survive.

The Violet Imperial Hall was filled daily with the sounds of women weeping. Empress Xiao grew tired of it after a few days. She ordered them to remain within their own halls, burning incense in prayer for his majesty and not going out without reason.

This also included Senior Concubine Xu, but she had never been an obedient one. It didn’t make a different what Empress Xiao said. As long as the empress said anything about it, she would kneel and cry to Emperor Xi.

Although Emperor Xi was unconscious, Zheng Hai Quan was still there. Empress Xiao didn’t dare to stir up too much trouble, and could only let Senior Concubine Xu come disgust her every day.

Because Emperor Xi was unconscious, court had not been held for several days.

It wasn’t possible to remain halted like this. After all, official business couldn’t be delayed.

Therefore, the crown prince logically assumed control.

Emperor Xi had taken crown prince along and taught him how to navigate the court politics for many years. He also had the left and right ministers to assist him. Therefore, the Grand Xi Dynasty continued on as before.

At this point, the crown prince had become steady, as steady as Mt. Tai. In comparison, it was the Jin Prince who could no longer remain still.

He naturally doubted whether there was something fishy with his royal father’s condition. But the empress had control of the Violet Imperial Hall and even though Senior Concubine Xu had some influence in the rear palace, she wasn’t able to get involved at all. They weren’t sure what was going on with Emperor Xi or if someone had done something.

Now that the crown prince was in charge of the nation, if anything really happened to Emperor Xi, everything the senior concubine’s side had done would have been for naught. At this time, the Jin Prince and Senior Concubine Xu naturally couldn’t sit still. The situation seemed no different from before, but there was one clear difference: it was the Jin Prince’s turn to feel anxious.

The Jin Prince definitely wouldn’t take the beating lying down. They put some effort into the rear palace and the court. Within a few days, some rumors started floating around the palace.

The rumors said that his majesty’s unconsciousness was fishy, and that the empress was monopolizing the Violet Imperial Hall. Only a single person was responsible for treating his majesty which was unreasonable and suspicious. It was said the empress stubbornly refused to let anyone else treat him….

The words were about Empress Xiao, but wasn’t speaking about Empress Xiao also speaking about the crown prince? It was basically pointing at them in accusation!

The source of the rumors couldn’t be found. Empress Xiao tried many times without being able to stop it. Due to her killing of several gossipy palace maids and eunuchs, the rumors spread even more fiercely and even reached outside of the palace.

Empress Xiao knew who was responsible, but she could only curse over it in her heart. She had to remain calm on the surface. She didn’t care if things got even more out of hand. She cared about showing a guilty conscience. No matter what, people were already saying it. This was clearing someone digging a pit for her to jump into.

She was clear of their goals.

All of a sudden, Empress Xiao and the crown prince were in the limelight.

Some imperial censors started moving to impeach within the court. These censors were all vicious-mouthed and dark-faced, rushing to impeach the moment they caught wind of something. Now that they found a pretext, even though the crown prince was currently in charge of court, they still raised the matter of impeachment. This made the crown prince’s veins pop in his anger, but he still had to endure it.

The other side’s objectives were extremely clear. They had suspicions over Emperor Xi’s unconsciousness.

Of course, the empress and the crown prince wasn’t without backup plans. When Senior Concubine Xu mentioned letting more imperial physicians take a look once again, the empress very straightforwardly agreed.

Author’s notes:

The crown prince has his schemes, the Jin Prince has his schemes, old fifth has his schemes and Emperor Xi has his own schemes as well. What a mess.

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