No one expected things to end this way.
This included Emperor Xi.
When he received the news, he spat a mouthful of blood and fainted. When he next awoke, he was faced with the violent death of his two sons and the palace in chaos from the deaths and injuries.
As if that wasn’t enough, the next day before the palace was even cleaned up, he received some more news.
The Qi Prince had errant thoughts and led troops towards the capital. The crown prince had found out and ordered people to go stop them. In the chaos of battle, the Qi Prince lost an arm.
This was another heavy blow.
No one knew what Emperor Xi was feeling. He braced himself and cleaned things up before becoming bedridden.
This time he was truly bedridden. Zheng Hai Quan served as witness.
On the other side, Empress Xiao and Senior Concubine Xu had gone insane. One had lost her only son and the other lost one son while her other one was crippled. Empress Xiao threw her dignity out the window and went directly to Senior Concubine Xu’s Chunluan Palace. The two of them came to blows without exchanging a single word. The majestic empress and senior concubine actually fought like a couple of commoner shrews: hair pulling, face scratching, and kicking each other’s stomachs. Nothing was off limits. Only after the utmost efforts of both their personal palace maids where they separated.
However, Emperor Xi no longer had time to care about these things. The court affairs were left to the two senior ministers to manage. Empress Xiao was still in charge of the rear palace, but Emperor Xi had already proclaimed that the Jin Prince’s rebellion was unrelated to Senior Concubine Xu. She was still the senior concubine.
As for the officials who assisted in his rebellion, their possessions were seized and their entire families were imprisoned, awaiting Emperor Xi’s sentencing. The Chengen Marquis didn’t suffer this fate due to his relationship with Senior Concubine Xu, and was merely confined within his estate. As for the lesser families who participated, they became the mortals who suffered while the gods battled. Some forfeited their properties, some forfeited their lives.
This proved the accuracy of the saying that it wasn’t easy for those without backing to earn a first class merit. A single mistake would end up harming their entire families.
The real culprits hadn’t been dealt with yet, but the little fish and shrimp were already taken care of. It wasn’t that the culprits couldn’t be dealt with, but rather that Emperor Xi hadn’t said anything yet. Even the two ministers could only do their jobs on the surface, stabilizing everything before deciding anything else.
The most important thing now was the successor to the throne since Emperor Xi looked like he wasn’t going to last much longer.
He was currently extremely ill as though this event had completely used up his remaining energy. He wasn’t even able to get up anymore, and if he spoke too much he would grow tired and groggy.
There weren’t a lot of candidates left to choose from. Emperor Xi only had five sons who were of age. The crown prince and the Jin Prince were dead, the Qi Prince had participated in the rebellion and was also crippled. Only the Yun Prince and the Jing Prince were left.
But the Yun Prince was a coward and was also afraid of his wife. His reputation in the capital had never been good. As for the Jing Prince, he had been mute since he was young. The crown prince did have three sons, but unfortunately none were from his first wife, and were all from concubines.
Could it be the Grand Xi Dynasty’s future emperor had to be chosen from the crown prince’s underage little boys?
Empress Xiao was extremely favorable towards this idea. Her son had died, but she had no objections to having one of her grandsons ascend the throne. But there were too many officials who were against this in court. Even Minister Xu did not approve of this, let alone Senior Concubine Xu who hated her to the bones.
However, all this had nothing to do with the Yun Prince and the Jing Prince. Seeing that they had gotten what they wished for, the two of them naturally returned to their vassal states. If they were accidentally discovered, they would become the target of public criticism.
The circumstances surrounding the crown prince and Jin Prince’s deaths were fishy.
It’s just that Emperor Xi’s health wasn’t good and there was still a lot to clean up. He naturally didn’t have the energy to investigate. There were some discerning people but since no one wanted to get involved, they pretended not to know anything. They just took it as the crown prince and Jin Prince accidentally taking each other out during their struggle.
The person Senior Concubine Xu hated most was none other than Empress Xiao.
The two had struggled openly and hiddenly for decades. From when neither of them had sons to after their sons matured. Now, both of them had lost a son. This was a grudge that couldn’t be resolved even after several lifetimes.
Senior Concubine Xu naturally didn’t think her son did anything wrong in rebelling. Actually, there wasn’t really right or wrong in this matter. To put it plainly, they had just fallen one move short, and were now damned.
Of her two sons, one was dead and the other crippled. She was naturally inconsolable. However, the palace wasn’t a place where you could wallow in sorrow and reminisce. Seeing Empress Xiao busying herself and scheming to have her grandsons inherit the throne, Senior Concubine Xu suppressed her grief and started making moves.
What did it mean to be mortal enemies? It meant that as long as one wasn’t happy, the other would be. What one liked would be hated by the other. If one wanted something, the other made sure to prevent it from happening.
Due to this rebellion, the Xu household’s influence was destroyed overnight. Especially since the rumored backbone of the Xu household, Xu Xiang Rong, had died. This was a heavy blow.
Senior Concubine Xu had nothing left apart from her unstable senior concubine’s position. The Chengen Marquis Estate’s people were confined to the estate. The Qi Prince had gotten swept up in things and was crippled. His ultimate fate was also uncertain. Senior Concubine Xu understood Emperor Xi. This man may be sentimental, but the royal family had always been a cold and heartless concept. All her worries remained unresolved while Empress Xiao’s side was pressing in.
The situation now was more difficult than when she had first entered palace and became an eyesore to the empress. However, Senior Concubine Xu felt that since she was able to overcome things back then, she should be able to do the same now.
Senior Concubine Xu ordered her palace maids to help her wash and tidy herself up. They naturally assumed their concubine had pulled herself together and quickly got to work. Senior Concubine Xu had always liked to look pretty. The palace maids knew her preferences and soon helped dressed her up in an extremely beautiful appearance.
However, she was ultimately old and had just lost her son. Her well-maintained face still seemed a little haggard. It seemed that this flower that had moved unhindered through the rear palace for several decades had passed its prime overnight. The fair and tender face was still as smooth as before, but the corners of her charming eyes now had visible wrinkles.
Senior Concubine Xu looked in the mirror and lightly stroked those wrinkles, her expression pained and melancholy.
The palace maids kept silent helplessly, deeply afraid of hurting their concubine’s feelings.
The Jin Prince was dead, and he had died while commiting the ultimate crime under the heavens. However, Senior Concubine Xu had been favored for decades, making these palace maids not dare to take her lightly. Especially since Emperor Xi’s edict had proclaimed that she still remained the senior concubine.
Senior Concubine Xu suddenly smiled. It was like the blooming of a hundred flowers, dazzling and eye-catching.
Everyone said Emperor Xi cherished Senior Concubine Xu’s raindrops on a pearblossom’s appearance the most. But how could a man like a woman who was always crying? Therefore, Senior Concubine Xu was also very beautiful when she smiled.
“Take off the jewelry. How could a heartbroken woman be in the mood to dress up?”
These words made all the palace maids lower their heads. They hurriedly complied with her wishes and helped her change.
When Senior Concubine Xu appeared in the Violet Imperial Hall, her appearance was completely different.
Her face was without makeup and her hair was tied in a low bun behind her, held in place by a white jade hairpin. A set of light blue palace robes made her look extremely simple and neat. Her slender waist made her seem like a weak willow against the wind, her body frail.
When Senior Concubine Xu entered, she first paid her respects. When she was called to rise, she stepped forward and took the bowl of medicine from Zheng Hai Quan’s hands, helping Emperor Xi drink. From start to finish, she didn’t say a word, and merely served Emperor Xi as before.
Emperor Xi didn’t speak either. The room was extremely quiet.
After a long while, Emperor Xi sighed, “You’ve lost quite a bit of weight.”
Senior Concubine Xu lifted her face and wanted to smile, but it became a sob halfway through. She also seemed to know that crying at this point was a little too much of an ill-omen. She choked back her sobs and said quietly: “Majesty has also lost weight.”
Emperor Xi’s face was haggard. The well-maintained middle-aged man seemed to have aged overnight. Actually, Emperor Xi had already started looking aged previously, but the speed and extent was truly startling.
His previously full face had become sunken and filled with wrinkles. He had lost a lot of weight and his sturdy hands was now veined and bony. Those hands stroked Senior Concubine Xu’s jade hands, “Don’t overthink things. The Jin Prince’s actions have nothing to do with you.” Even his voice had become weak.
Rumors in the palace said that Emperor Xi didn’t have much time left. These weren’t wild guesses. It was was the truth.
Senior Concubine Xu looked at this man who had changed her destiny.
Was it love?
Perhaps it had been present a long time ago. At that time, she was innocent and pure. She might have been intelligent, but she hadn’t understood the hearts of people. It was inevitable for her to admire the indomitable man who held the most authority in the world. However, in the forge that was the palace, due to the complicated thoughts of others and the tangled struggles, the feelings gradually changed.
She learned that admiration was superfluous in the palace. She learned to adapt herself to his tastes. She learned to borrow influence. She learned to fake her love once she realized she no longer loved him….
Everyone said Emperor Xi favored the senior concubine for several decades. Only Senior Concubine Xu herself knew that the favor was merely something she had fought for. Only she knew that this favor was only due to some misgivings in Emperor Xi’s heart. He needed someone to resist Emperor Xiao, whose influence had been growing daily.
Having understood this, everything became even easier. She became the person Emperor Xi hoped to have. Whatever he hoped she would do, she would “become arrogant due to being favored” and do as he wished….
In the end, she gradually forgot what she was originally like.
She had thought she had stopped loving him long ago, but hearing his words at this time, her frozen heart was once again moved. Perhaps it wasn’t that there was no love. The two of them just weren’t aware of it.
Senior Concubine Xu’s face was suddenly covered in tears. She hugged Emperor Xi’s hand and started crying.
She cried extremely sorrowfully, as though the heavens were collapsing.
Emperor Xi was no longer able to withstand such things. He felt a piercing pain in his temples. If it were anyone else, he would naturally berate them to leave. However, he actually wasn’t able to do so to this woman whom he “favored” for decades.
Even Zheng Hai Quan didn’t dare make a sound on the side. Normally when he saw Emperor Xi making such a pained expresson, he would have stepped up to stop things.
However, this wasn’t just anyone. She was Senior Concubine Xu.
She cried and wailed about many things. She lamented over the good times she and Emperor Xi had shared, over how cute their two sons were as children, how they played together childishly, how the small Jin Prince had said he would definitely show filial piety to his royal father when he grew up….
No one else knew about all of this. It was something Emperor Xi had experienced back then.
Because of her words, Emperor Xi involuntarily became lost in memories. His expression was reminiscing and complicated.
Then, her tone changed as she cried over how the Jin Prince was a victim and that it was the crown prince who had wickedly taken advantage of his majesty’s illness to suppress his brothers. Otherwise, the Jin Prince wouldn’t have done such a disgraceful thing….
She then brought up the Qi Prince, and how he had been impetuous and got into trouble since he was young, but was still favored by his majesty. How the Qi Prince had always blindly followed the Jin Prince and how this time her younger son had been implicated by her older son. He had also been punished sufficiently since his arm was now crippled….
Having laid out so many things, Senior Concubine Xu finally approached the main topic.
“The court is filled with discussion on majesty’s successor. This servant concubine has also heard about it in the rear palace. The loudest voices are calling for the crown prince’s concubine born eldest son to inherit the throne. This one shouldn’t be wildly commenting on such matters, but this one is still a mother. Because of the Jin Prince’s rebellion, the empress hates this one and my two sons to death. The Jin Prince is already gone and won’t be mentioned for now. This one only has Qi’er remaining as the only child. Hopefully majesty can take pity on him.”
Senior Concubine Xu’s meaning was very clear. If the crown prince’s concubine born son inherited the throne, the Qi Prince would die without a proper burial. Senior Concubine Xu didn’t say it outright but Emperor Xi could come to this conclusion himself.
“This one should have been guilty by association in the Jin Prince’s rebellion. However, due to majesty’s pity, this one remains the senior concubine. This guilty one is restless daily and cannot sleep at night, and wishes to atone for the crime with death. However, since majesty is seriously ill, how could this guilty one dare stir up such misfortune? Therefore, this one has decided that if majesty one day passes on, this guilty one is willing to accompany his majesty. This I vow as long as majesty takes pity on the Qi Prince….”
Before her voice faded, Senior Concubine Xu started crying again.
Emperor Xi was thunderstruck and very shocked.
His heart was moved in a complicated manner. He knew how quickly Empress Xiao had pulled herself together after this matter. Her son had just died and she was already hopping about trying to get her grandson on the throne. In comparison, Senior Concubine Xu’s face was awash in tears daily and she was inconsolable. Now, she even said she would accompany him in death….
Having been married to Empress Xiao for several decades, Emperor Xi still understood her a quite well. Even if he passed away, she would still be perfectly fine as the empress dowager, or even the grand-empress dowager. As for Senior Concubine Xu, she only had him. She had two sons before, but was now only left with one crippled one.
Who was in the right and who was in the wrong in this event, Emperor Xi no longer had the energy to distinguish. He could clearly feel his energy was insufficient, and would have a splitting headache whenever he thought about it.
He patted Senior Concubine Xu’s hand, tiredly closed his eyes and waved his hand for her to take her leave.
Senior Concubine Xu kowtowed and left with her head lowered.
When she turned around, her teary eyes were however startlingly bright.
Empress Xiao, what else can you use to struggle against me? I dare to throw my life away. Do you?
I’m using my life to screw you over. Yep, that’s basically what Senior Concubine Xu is doing. Of course it wasn’t just to screw the empress over. She’s also trying to help the confined Chengen Marquis household and the Qi Prince.
Accidentally wrote a little too much about Senior Concubine Xu in this chapter. However, this author couldn’t help it. The person I admire most in this novel, apart from the male and female leads as well as Yan Zhi and his wife would be Senior Concubine Xu. Of course, it isn’t just because I admire her. A woman can easily influence a man’s thoughts, especially one who favored her for so many years. Senior Concubine Xu was always accurate at reading Emperor Xi. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been favored for so many years.
Many things cannot be helped but inferred. Senior Concubine Xu seemed to be worried for the Qi Prince and expressed her willingness to follow him in death. She didn’t mention anything about what would happen if the crown prince’s son took the throne. However, Emperor Xi wouldn’t be able to help but infer things himself. For example, the Xu household would definitely be dead. The Qi Prince as well. Furthermore, the new emperor would be young so it wouldn’t be out of the question for the empress dowager to rule in the shadows. Regardless, Emperor Xi would infer many things.