Ch 57 “Unless I die, you can only be mine.”
In just a few days, various rumors spread throughout the court and the common people, all of them related to the alleged plot by King Xing, Xie Chaohui, to assassinate the crown prince at the empress dowager’s birthday banquet and to poison King Xun, Xie Chaorong, who had already been stripped of his title and imprisoned. The entire court was in a state of panic, and even the several successive imperial edicts issued by the emperor did not cause much of a stir.
Emperor Qianming was so angry about the matter that he had another bout of his recurring illness. He had wanted to suppress the incident and make a decision after a thorough investigation, since it was a disgraceful affair for him as the emperor to have his own sons fighting each other. However, there were some people who did not want him to be happy and were stirring up trouble behind his back, making the incident widely known.
“Your Majesty has commuted the sentence of the Shen Family to banishment, but many people have expressed their private opinions about it, especially those clan elders who were forced to give money to the Guangchu department. They wished they could skin the Shen Family alive and make their family pay back the money. However, because of the incident at the empress dowager’s birthday banquet, when the crown prince was almost assassinated, the scholars in the Hanlin Academy were afraid of getting into trouble and did not dare to stir things up anymore. They had already realized that they had been used as pawns by others, so they stopped listening to those instigators and stopped getting involved in these matters. In the end, things just ended up like this.”
“As for the Zhao family, although Your Majesty has appointed Zhou, the attendant minister, as the minister of the Ministry of Revenue to act on behalf of the former minister, it is obviously a rebuke to him. Zhao Family probably still wants to install its own people in the ministry to sideline the minister. However… when the imperial edict for the crown prince’s betrothal is issued, there may be changes. Also, Chang Ke was transferred to the Luanyi Wei to make way for Zhao Shizi. This is a loss for him, and it may deepen the rift between the Lin and Zhao families in the future.”
Wang Rang whispered the news from outside, and Xie Chaoyuan listened absent-mindedly. It wasn’t until he heard the words “imperial edict for the crown prince’s betrothal” that there was a slight change in his expression, and he asked calmly, “What about King Xing’s side? Is there any movement from the crown prince?”
“This servant was about to tell you this,” Wang Rang lowered his voice, “Last night, His Majesty said he had a headache, and His Royal Highness went to attend to the sick. His Majesty was not sleepy in the middle of the night, so His Highness helped His Majesty to go for a stroll in the garden, but saw King Lu sneaking towards the Empress Dowager’s bedroom in the garden. His Majesty turned dark at that time, but he didn’t startle the snake, and left someone to watch. It is said that King Lu didn’t come out from the Empress Dowager until dawn this morning. “
“In these few days, the princes who came to attend the birthday banquet are still staying in this palace, but what about the king and the empress dowager?”
Xie Chaoyuan instantly understood what Xie Chaoling wanted to do and sneered, “He really is a wicked person.”
Inside the emperor’s sleeping hall, Xie Chaoling kept silent and listened to the emperor’s tantrum.
The matter of the empress dowager and King Lu having an affair, if it were to be spread, the entire royal family’s reputation would be ruined. Emperor Qianming was so angry that he wished he could execute the adulterous couple, but he had to endure and pretend that he hadn’t seen or heard anything. On top of that, he had to treat that wicked woman as his mother. Just thinking about it made the emperor so angry that he wanted to vomit blood.
After Emperor Qianming vented his anger and threw things around, Xie Chaoling spoke at the right time, “Father, since the empress dowager said she wants to rest in this palace, let her stay here.”
Emperor Qianming snorted, letting her enjoy herself alone in this palace? That would be too easy for her!
Whether the empress dowager lives or dies was not within Xie Chaoling’s concern. He turned to ask about another matter, “Father, how is the investigation going on the case of King Xing?”
Speaking of this, the emperor’s face turned even uglier. It was obvious that there was no major progress in the case and all evidence pointed to Xie Chaohui, making it hard for anyone not to suspect him.
Xie Chaoling whispered, “It’s true that King Xing had a motive to harm me and my younger brother using poison, but choosing the same time and poison seems too deliberate. It’s like telling everyone that the culprit behind this is the same person. Moreover, besides going to the racecourse before the incident, King Xing’s only contact was his eunuch who saw his guard talking to the assassin during the banquet. But as for Prince Lu…”
” There hasn’t been much progress, and all the evidence points to Xie Chaohui, making it hard for people not to doubt him.
Xie Chaoling reminded in a low voice: “If King Xing wants to poison this son and second elder brother, there is indeed a motive, but choosing to do it at the same time and using the same poison is too deliberate, as if telling everyone that the murderer behind this is the same. Personally, besides King Xing going to the racecourse to run horses before the incident, only the servants around King Lu said that he had seen his guards talk to the assassin in the middle of the birthday banquet, but King Lu…”
There was no need for Xie Chaoling to say the following words, Emperor Qianming’s face was already ashen, he was too angry just now, and he forgot this.
Before, he didn’t doubt what King Lu’s people said, because he thought that his uncle was a man of high morals, who didn’t care about world affairs, and would never do anything to deceive the emperor. Now that he knew that King Lu was actually having an affair with the Empress Dowager, he couldn’t think about it at this moment.
The Empress Dowager was cruel. She killed his birth mother to take his throne, so what’s stopping her from killing his sons? Xie Chaoqi was already despised by him, Xie Chaoyuan came from a lowly background, and with the poisoned wine to Xie Chaohui and the Crown Prince, there would only be Xie Chaoyi from the Zhao family. As for Xie Chaorong, he was already exiled and had no use. Since he was also born of a Zhao concubine, the Empress Dowager might have thought that poisoning him could clear her name.
All of his sons were involved in this plot, and even the only child of the former Crown Prince was implicated. This was meant to prevent anyone from resting in peace.
Emperor Qianming was a suspicious person, but once he believed in something, he wouldn’t easily change his mind. Now, he was convinced that the Empress Dowager, with the help of King Lu, was trying to harm his sons. He was so angry that he leaned forward with his hands on the desk, breathing heavily. Xie Chaoling was afraid that his father would be so angry that he’d hurt himself.
He advised, “Father, you’ve already ordered the Guangchu treasury to return the owed silver within two months, but many people don’t take it seriously and think that you won’t pursue the matter. You don’t need to mention it again, and when the time comes, you can use it to punish them by killing a chicken to scare the monkey.”
King Lu was the most suitable candidate. He was the emperor’s uncle, with a high status and position. If the emperor didn’t show mercy to him, would others dare to keep the money they owed?
Emperor Qianming gritted his teeth and said, “You’re right.”
He couldn’t deal with that treacherous couple openly, but he had a thousand ways to get back at them. As for the Empress Dowager, as long as the Zhao family was overthrown, he could make that woman disappear completely.
In the afternoon, the emperor summoned Zuolun, the Minister of Personnel, and expressed his intention to make his daughter the Crown Prince’s concubine. Zuolun was surprised at first, but then overjoyed and grateful as he knelt down to express his thanks.
That day, the marriage decree was sent to Zuolun’s house, attracting everyone’s attention.
When Xie Chaoling returned to the mausoleum, the Ministry of Rites had already sent him the list of gifts for the bride’s family.
When Xie Chaoling went back to the mausoleum, and the Ministry of Rites sent him a list of gifts to review as soon as possible. The emperor’s intention was to wait for Xie Chaohui and Xie Chaoqi’s wedding to be completed before sending the gifts. The wedding was set to take place before the end of the year, clearly indicating the urgency.
Xie Chaoling didn’t look at it, and casually told Liao Zhi, “Just keep an eye on it.”
Liao Zhi wanted to persuade him, but he turned the words around and swallowed them back.
Someone from outside came in to report, saying that King Ke sent someone over, asking His Royal Highness the Crown Prince to come over.
Xie Chaoling’s eyes moved, and he said calmly: “Go and ask King Ke if there is anything important. I have something to do now and don’t have the time to go.”
Two quarters later, someone from Xie Chaoyuan’s side came back. “He said King Ke has pain in his chest and lungs, and he wants Your Highness to visit him.”
Xie Chaoling frowned and stood up.
Xie Chaoyuan was no longer in bed. When Xie Chaoling went in, he was standing by the window looking outside.
Xie Chaoling asked in a low voice, “Weren’t you in pain? Why are you standing here in the wind?”
Xie Chaoyuan turned to look at him, with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Doesn’t the Crown Prince dare to come and see me? Why did I have to invite you three or four times before you agreed to come?”
“I’m very busy,” Xie Chaoling said calmly.
Xie Chaoyuan nodded. “Busy preparing to welcome the Eastern Palace Crown Princess.”
Xie Chaoling’s expression turned cold. “Since you already know, what’s the point of asking?”
The palace attendants had already left, and Xie Chaoyuan looked at him and said, “Why are you standing so far away from me? Are you afraid I’ll do something to you?”
Xie Chaoling stepped forward and pushed open the half-closed window. “You’re still recovering from a serious illness. Don’t let the cold wind blow on you.”
Xie Chaoyuan clasped his wrist.
Xie Chaoling remained calm, raised his eyes to look at him: “Be obedient.”
“Crown Prince brother wants to use this trick to fool me again? Do I listen to Crown Prince brother obediently? I suffered so much, but Crown Prince brother just helped the third prince to cover it up easily, making me work for nothing. Does Crown Prince brother think I’m stupid and a waste of your effort? Is everything I have done for you not worth mentioning? The emperor is in a hurry to have you marry the princess to split the power of the Zhao family, but what about you? Are you so eager to get married?”
“Crown prince brother wants to use this trick to fool me again? Am I obedient to Crown Prince Brother? I have suffered such a big crime, and Crown Prince Brother is so light that he helps the third child to turn things around and let me make a fuss. Does the prince think that Am I stupid to waste your thoughts? Are all the thoughts I spent on you worth mentioning? Your Majesty is anxious to let you divide the Zhao family power with the Crown Princess, what about yourself? Are you so impatient to get married?”
With a sharp questioning from Xie Chaoyuan, his eyes were full of sarcasm.
Xie Chaoling questioned him back, “You designed to frame King Xing, I saved him but didn’t expose you, what more do you want from me?”
“So should I thank Crown Prince brother for sparing me?” Xie Chaoyuan sneered. “Does the emperor know that you can’t even get married? What are you going to do on your wedding night? Have your princess guard an empty bedroom?”
Xie Chaoling’s eyes showed fleeting anger, “You gave me that poison, and you still have the face to say that?”
“So what? I dare to do it, and I dare to admit it,” Xie Chaoyuan was indifferent, “What are you going to do? Now that you know how to detoxify, do you want to detoxify? Once you detoxify, you can marry and have children smoothly. No one can stop you or cause trouble for you. Your position as the crown prince will be secure, and there will be no more obstacles for you to ascend to the throne in the future.”
Xie Chaoling’s brows were tightly knitted. Xie Chaoyuan’s words were piercing and unpleasant. “Do you still feel wronged? Did I have to expose you? From the beginning, it was you who were playing tricks. You kidnapped me, deceived me when I lost my memory, and poisoned me. If I really wanted to settle accounts with you, everything you did to me would be enough for you to die countless times. Why do you still want me to tolerate you?”
Xie Chaoyuan stared at his cold eyes. “So why did Crown Prince brother stay that night? Enjoyed the taste?”
“Does Crown Prince brother indulge me when he is happy and plans to kick me out when he needs to get married?”
“It’s not that easy.”
In the end, Xie Chaoyuan pulled Xie Chaoling closer, and their breaths mixed.
“Does Sixth brother want to be the emperor?” After a moment of silence, Xie Chaoling suddenly asked.
Without waiting for Xie Chaoyuan’s answer, he continued, “Sixth brother has great ambitions and, like others, is eyeing my crown prince position.”
“I just want Crown Prince brother. Everything I have done is to get you,” Xie Chaoyuan slowly said, lifting his hand to stroke his hair without any guilt.
Xie Chaoling understood, “You want it.”
But Xie Chaoyuan didn’t have a chance. His wild seed identity doomed him to have no chance at all. Xie Chaoling thought that if one day Xie Chaoyuan threatened his position, he would not cover up for him anymore. He hoped that day would never come.
Xie Chaoyuan neither confirmed nor denied, “If brother is obedient, I will naturally be obedient.”
Xie Chaoling suppressed those chaotic thoughts and tried to reason with him: “Sixth brother, we are wrong.”
“Nominally, we are brothers, and no one will allow us to be so ambiguous, let alone Royal Father.”
“I don’t care.”
“I don’t care.” Xie Chaoling chewed on these words seriously.
Xie Chaoyuan clicked his tongue: “Crown Prince Brother is always like this. He puts on airs and doesn’t know who to show it to. Is it difficult to change this? There is no one else here.”
Xie Chaoling was unmoved: “If you can’t understand or don’t want to hear what I’m saying, then forget it.”
Xie Chaoling was about to leave but was grabbed by Xie Chaoyuan. He frowned, his eyes filled with anger, and was quickly pinned down on the bed by Xie Chaoyuan, who restrained his body.
“Let go.” Xie Chaoling said coldly.
Xie Chaoyuan looked down at him, with indistinct emotions hidden in his black pupils: “Does His Highness mean that this is the end?”
Xie Chaoling turned his head and closed his eyes. “Let it end here.”
“I don’t agree,” Xie Chaoyuan said, leaning over and whispering in his ear. “Unless I die, you can only belong to me.”
“What do you want, then?” Xie Chaoling couldn’t take it anymore.
“His Highness is a liar. You promised me before to let me go to the Eastern Palace.”
Xie Chaoling took a deep breath. “I’m going to marry the Crown Princess.”
“Then don’t marry her. I’ll help you kill her.”
“How dare you,” Xie Chaoling raised his eyes sharply. “If you dare to kill innocent people indiscriminately, I will not tolerate it.”
Xie Chaoyuan sneered. “The person hasn’t even entered the door yet, and His Highness is already protecting her?”
This was unreasonable.
Xie Chaoling warned him sternly, “If you really dare to do it, I will never condone you again.”
Xie Chaoyuan wiped his eyes and raised his hand. “Then let’s wait and see.”