“Fourth Princess Consort, accompany the fourth prince for a walk outside.” Su Guifei thoughtfully comforted Sun Caiyao. “If you encounter any difficulties in the future, you can come to Ben Gong as well.”
Under everyone’s gazes, Yun Yanze held the yellow pages of evidence in his hand and walked out of the hall in a daze. Suddenly, a strong gust of wind scattered the pages in all directions.
He snapped back to reality, reaching out in a panic to grab the evidence that had flown away. But how could those pages follow his wishes and fall back in place?
No one dared to look at what was on the evidence, nor did anyone dare to reach out and pick them up.
However, when one of the pages fell on Jiuzhu’s table, she extended her hand.
Xiangjuan opened her mouth, wanting to stop her, but seeing that she had already taken the paper in her hand, she swallowed her words.
【In the twentieth year of the late Emperor’s reign, Side Consort Wang-shi, who had given birth to a daughter, had a conflict with the Zheng-shi…】
“Ming Xianzhu.” Yun Yanze was holding a handful of yellow papers and standing beside Jiuzhu. “Thank you for picking this up. Please return it to me.”
Jiuzhu looked up at him. His hair was disheveled, and there were mud stains on his sleeves. His face was even paler than the paper.
She lowered her head and glanced hurriedly at the thing in her hand.
【In deep resentment, Zheng-shi killed her.】
In that instant, she got chills from the piece of paper. It floated along her fingertips, drawing a graceful arc in the air, and dropped at Yun Yanze’s feet.
In the eyes of everyone, this scene looked as if she was intentionally humiliating Yun Yanze.
“Xianzhu.” Sun Caiyao walked to Yun Yanze’s side and bent down to pick up the paper. “It’s cold. Don’t let your hands freeze. If you drop something, it’s fine. But it’s not good if you accidentally hurt yourself.”
Yun Yanze took the paper from Sun Caiyao’s hand and said in a heavy voice: “Let’s go.”
As they walked out of the hall, he trembled all over and clenched all the evidence in his hand tightly. He turned to Sun Caiyao, who was following behind him: “Go back with the servants. I want to go on a walk now.”
“Your Highness, I’ll accompany you…”
“No need!” Realizing that his tone was a bit grave, his expression became apologetic: “Caiyao, I just want to be alone now. Go back first, okay?”
“Alright.” Sun Caiyao reluctantly agreed. She also knew that at this moment, His Highness did not want her to follow along.
Yun Yanze walked westward until he saw the plaque of Qianyi Pavilion. On both sides of it, red lanterns swayed back and forth. He stepped onto the stairs and heard his Mother Consort’s angry voice coming from inside.
He stopped and listened quietly.
Gradually, his expression calmed down. When he was about to turn around and leave, he saw Bai Shao walking out of the house. She had covered her face.
“Your Highness.” Bai Shao saw Yun Yanze standing at the door and hurriedly bowed to him. “Please wait, Your Highness. This slave will go and inform Milady.”
“No need.” Yun Yanze noticed the swollen red palm print on her face. After a moment of silence, he asked, “Why is it only you? Where is Hong Mei?”
Bai Shao shook her head silently.
He glanced at her messy hair bun and crooked silk flower and guessed that his Mother Consort’s slap must have been very forceful. “I will plead with Mother Consort Su to let you serve in the Zhangliu Palace tomorrow.”
Yun Yanze didn’t wait for her answer. He turned around and quickly disappeared into the night after he had said his part.
Behind him, the angry voice of his Mother Consort resounded again.
In the darkness, Yun Yanze quickly wiped off the tear that fell from his eyes and walked away in large strides.
Bai Shao covered her face and listened to the resentful cursing of her mistress. A terrifying premonition rose in her heart.
Two hours later, she saw a robust eunuch carrying white silk appearing in Qianyi Pavilion. She finally understood why His Highness’ expression was so ugly and why he decided to make her go to the Zhangliu Palace.
Listening to the eunuch announcing the Emperor’s verbal decree, Bai Shao stared blankly at her hysterical mistress. In a trance, she wondered how things had developed to this point.
“I want to meet His Majesty, I don’t believe this!” Zheng Lanyin pushed away the robust eunuch who had approached her. When one is in a frenzy, their strength becomes unpredictable. “This is all Su Meidai’s plot! His Majesty cannot kill me!”
“Zhen is the one who wants your life. It has nothing to do with others.” Emperor Longfeng walked into Qianyi Pavilion. The two of them hadn’t had a proper conversation in years. When he looked at her, it was as if he was looking at a stranger.
“Your Majesty.” Zheng Lanyin cried bitterly, “Why are you so heartless to me?”
“Do you remember: A married couple is like the birds in a forest. When catastrophe approaches, each sets off in their own direction.” Emperor Longfeng looked at her. “If zhen were cold and heartless, there would’ve been no Ning Fei in the Palace after zhen ascended the throne.”
Zheng Lanyin looked at him in fear and took several steps back. “No, it wasn’t me. I didn’t say these words back then. Your Majesty, I was wrong, I really know I was wrong. Please spare me, I don’t want to die, I really don’t want to die.”
Over a decade ago, she did say these words to her natal family.
“Lanyin, would you later regret colluding with us to take full control over the prince’s residence?”
“Why would I regret it? A married couple is like the birds in the same forest. When a catastrophe approaches, each sets off in its own direction. Moreover, the person I actually liked is not him. If it weren’t for the family’s interests, would I need to suffer this grievance?”
“Zhen knows that you entered the prince residence for the sake of your family. As a woman, you did not have the option to choose nor did you have a way out.” Emperor Longfeng sighed. “Both of us were pawns in the hands of the imperial power at that time. Zhen never intended to make things difficult for you.”
“But you made too many mistakes.” Emperor Longfeng closed his eyes. “It was me who favored Meidai and Duqing. If you wanted to hate someone, you should have just hated zhen. Come find zhen if you turn into a vengeful spirit after death.”
After speaking, he turned and walked away.
“Yun Yixing!” Zheng Lanyin yelled sharply, “You were just luckier than your third brother! You were just luckier than him!”
“You’re right.” Emperor Longfeng stopped in his tracks and turned to look at her. “Zhen, being luckier than all the princes, was the ultimate victor.”
“N-no.” Zheng Lanyin’s eyes widened as her teeth shattered incessantly. “You… It was you…”
Emperor Longfeng glanced at her and draped over the robe that Liu Zhongbao handed him. “Let’s go.”
“Your Majesty,” Liu Zhongbao smiled and asked: “Go where?”
“You old thing, of course it is Mingyue Palace.” Emperor Longfeng sat on the imperial carriage. “One should naturally be with their family on New Year’s Eve. Summon Duqing as well. If he doesn’t come, he won’t get New Year’s money this year.”
“Your Majesty, it may take His Highness a while to return to Mingyue Palace. I just saw him accompany Ming Xianzhu in the direction of Zhuque Gate.”
Emperor Longfeng smiled slightly. “It’s up to him then.”
In the end, the child had grown up now. He won’t follow his father now.
“Your Highness,” Jiuzhu looked ahead. “Zhuque Gate is right in front. Father and Mother are waiting for me outside. You should go back quickly.”
“Ben Wang knows Zhuque Gate is ahead.” Chen Wang smirked. “Look up.”
Jiuzhu looked up and heard a bang. Beautiful fireworks burst in the sky.
The light of the fireworks illuminated her face as she watched without blinking. “Your Highness, did you specially prepare these for me?”
“On New Year’s Eve, after the hour of zishi, the Palace sets off fireworks every year. You can see them at many places in the capital.”
“Oh.” Jiuzhu nodded, realizing that the fireworks were not set off for her.
“Those weren’t, but these are.” Chen Wang raised his hand, and a eunuch brought a pile of firecrackers.
“New Year is coming amid the sound of firecrackers, the spring breeze has wafted its warm breath into the Tusu wine1T/N: This is the first line (爆竹声中一岁除, 春风送暖入屠苏 / Bàozhú shēng zhōng yī suì chú, chūnfēng sòng nuǎn rù túsū) of a couplet (generally placed by the doorside during Chinese New Year) written by Wang Anshi, a Northern Song Dynasty Prime Minister. Tusu wine was a type of medical liquor. It was infused with herbs and stored in a thatched cottage decorated with an herb named Tusu (from which it gets its name). It was believed to help cure chills and offer protection against plague and epidemics. Click here to know more..” He picked up a firecracker and placed it on the ground. “Ming Xiaozhu, light it, and it will signify the beginning of a new year. May you get everything you want and live a peaceful and worry-free life.”
He tied the flame stick2Flame stick [火折子] – In the olden days, it was used as a lighter or flashlight due to its portable and easy to use design. It is basically a roll of rough paper packed with other flammables placed inside a tube. It just needed to be uncapped and blown to be ignited. to be used for lighting the firecracker to a long stick and handed it to her. “Here, give it a try.”
Jiuzhu felt both excited and a little scared. Her hand shook as she extended the flame stick and tried to light the firecracker, but she kept missing it.
“You’ve never lighted firecrackers before?”
Jiuzhu shook her head. “Never.”
Noticing her unfamiliarity, Chen Wang gently held her wrist. “Let me teach you. When it ignites, we’ll run. Do you remember?”
“En!” Jiuzhu nodded, staring at the string as if facing a formidable enemy.
The strong was ignited. Jiuzhu dropped the flame stick and grabbed Chen Wang to run.
“Don’t be afraid.” He opened his large robe and covered her head and face with it.
The firecracker exploded, creating a burst of light.
“We did it!” Jiuzhu poked her head from the robe with a happy expression and pointed at the spot where the firecracker had exploded. “The sound was so loud ah!”
“Was it fun?” Chen Wang looked at the girl who was practically leaning against his bosom and smiled.
“It was fun.” Jiuzhu tugged at his sleeve. “Your Highness, let’s light another one, okay?”
“Alright.” He picked up the flame stick from the ground and handed it to her. “This time, light it yourself.”
“En en.” Jiuzhu blew on the flame stick a few times to ignite it and extended her trembling hand to light the firecracker.
This time, she lit the cracker with trembling hands, and with a yelp, ran towards Chen Wang without thinking.
Seeing the girl running toward him, he spread his cloak again.
The girl buried herself in his arms.
With a smile, he wrapped her with his cloak again. At this moment, the loud explosion of the firecracker seemed to blend with his heartbeat.
“Your Highness, why don’t you light two as well?” Jiuzhu pushed him. “Go quickly, go quickly.”
Chen Wang held the flame stick. “Ben Wang can light three at once. Do you want to see?”
“Yes.” Jiuzhu grabbed three firecrackers but hesitated for a moment before keeping one back. She turned to him. “Your Highness, maybe you should just light two, three is too many.”
“Xiaozhu, are you looking down on me?” Chen Wang walked to her side and took the firecracker she had placed down. “Stand back, I’ll show you what it means to be an expert at lighting firecrackers.”
Jiuzhu ran far away and covered her ears. “Your Highness, be careful.”
Chen Wang casually waved his hand, quickly lit the three firecrackers, and stood up to look at Jiuzhu.
The firecrackers exploded one after another. Jiuzhu put down her hands covering her ears and looked at her graceful and handsome man amidst the fireworks. She murmured softly: “Your Highness… is really good-looking.”
“What did you say?” He walked to Jiuzhu’s side and noticed that her face was a little red.
She shook her head fiercely. “Nothing.”
“Eyes darting around like that indicates a guilty conscience. And still, you say you didn’t say anything?” He smirked and poked her cheek. “Ming Xiaozhu, do you think you can fool Ben Wang so easily?”
“No, no.” Jiuzhu covered her face to prevent him from poking her. Realizing that she was unable to avoid his poking, she ultimately buried herself in his arms.
Thump, thump, thump.
It wasn’t the sound of firecrackers, but the sound of his heartbeat.
Jiuzhu lifted her head from his embrace, her clear eyes glimmering in the dark. “Your Highness…”
She wanted to say that his heartbeat was so loud.
“Little fool.” Chen Wang laughed, his laughter gentle and clear, like the blossoming peach flowers on a mountain.
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