Chapter 134 – The Black and White Go Pieces
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don’t read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
Although she stayed deep within the imperial palace, Concubine Xiao was very knowledgeable of what happened outside. Some of her knowledge came from discussions she has with Jing Yi when the latter came in to see her. On other occasions, it was the maids who would tell her of tales from the outside. She had a fragile disposition and a gentle appearance, but in her eyes nested the same viciousness and gloominess common to all concubines within the imperial harem. She grinned. “Not a single lead after people vanished into thin air in the capital? My, this secretary is really someone unworthy of his salary.”
As she concluded her remark, she grabbed the pair of scissors with one hand and flung it into a flower pot, bending over the stems of flowers as it landed. She wiped her hands clean with a handkerchief given to her by a maid. At this moment, a young eunuch closed in with his head bent down. He stopped right besides her, with his arms straight, on the sides of his body and said. “Madame, Prince Rong has arrived at the palace.”
Concubine Xiao’s eyes, which projected tenderness, turned into a squint upon hearing the mention of ‘Prince Rong’. She glanced back at the eunuch and asked in a cold voice, “Did he just return to the capital?”
“Yes, he has entered the palace in a casual outfit, and he is on his way to Fuyang hall. Since His Majesty and His Highness the Crown Prince are inside for a meeting, I’d think that Prince Rong would be joining them as of right now.”
“He did not change into his court dress? Interesting.” Concubine Xiao smiled cryptically.
‘True to his reputed wisdom. A clever calculation. This should be enough to bring some good mood to the emperor.’ Concubine Xiao held the stem of a flower between her fingers, and with a little push, the stalk snapped into two.
Outside of Fuyang Hall, the eunuch guarding the entrance, upon seeing Jing Rong, went inside to report to the emperor, but has not returned after quite a while. Jing Rong stood at the door with an emotionless expression, looking straight ahead without looking in any direction, a posture which put his force of character on full display. Before he could realize it, rainfall started. The raindrops flowed down the eaves and splashed Jing Rong’s robes as the water drops pelted the ground. It did not take long for the fabric to get wet.
After waiting for almost enough time for a stick of incense to burn out completely, the carved wooden doors were finally pulled open from the inside by two eunuchs. The one who guarded them at first stood at the door and said to Jing Rong in a low voice, “Prince Rong, His Majesty demands your presence within the hall.”
The eunuch stared at Jing Rong with a cold, somber expression before lifting his own robe and walked into the hall. Jing Rong followed him into a side hall, and found the emperor and the crown prince around a Go board.
Qi Zhen Emperor was over sixty years old. The few wrinkles running down his face and his grizzled beard might have given him an ostensible affability, but upon closer examination, one would be able to read the forcefulness and the desire to have the world obey his will lodged between his brows. Nine dragons were embroidered on his golden robe1, separated by colorful clouds. Two were at the front and back of his collar, while five others surrounded the fold at the knees, with two on each side, and one joining all of them. The final two decorated his left and right sleeves. At the bottom of the robe, one could find depictions of a roaring sea, upon which stood rugged cliffs. Across the board sat the crown prince, dressed in a robe which was bright blue on the upper body and wrapped by a scarlet outer robe on the lower body. Five dragons decorated his clothing, along with five themed motifs on his upper robe and four on the lower body.
Jing Rong stood at the middle of the hall and folded both of his hands into a salutation. “Imperial Father.”
Yet, the emperor acted as if he did not hear Jing Rong’s greeting. He clawed a white piece between his index and middle fingers, and deposited onto the board with a thud.
Crown Prince Jing Hua’s black piece remained undecided and hung in the air above the board, ultimately returning to the bowl which contained all of his pieces. “I am outwitted, this is my loss.”
The emperor answered in a stern voice. “Jing Hua, it is too early to decide whether you have lost or not. This board is just like our world, until the very end, anything is possible.”
As he finished his remark, the emperor picked up a piece from the prince’s bowl and put it down on the board. The black pieces, which had been trapped by the white ones until now, suddenly regained control of the board. It seemed now that it was the prince who was winning it all.
Jing Hua looked at the board, enlightened, and nodded. “You are right, father. I have a thirst for knowledge, and there’s still much for me to learn.”
“Each move on the board requires careful consideration. With one mistake, you can lose the entire world.”
“Yes. Thank you, father, for your wise words. I shall remember them.” It was not the first time Jing Hua toaded his father, but the sweet words seemed to be just the right cure for the emperor’s “poison”. The two turned their eyes towards Jing Rong only after they finished putting the board and the piece away.
Jing Hua stood up and retreated to the side while examining Jing Rong. ‘After half a year, he’s cold as always.’
The emperor picked up a cup of hot tea from a teapoy and sipped it, staring at Jing Rong with eyes which revealed his haleness, and asked. “Why did you come here unchanged?”
“I have barely returned to the capital and came here before stopping home. I am here for the Lin Capital case, it…”
The emperor interrupted his speech with a hand gesture. He put his cup back down and said with a cough, “Although the case indeed involves the Imperial Duke, I have made you wholly responsible of it, so it is enough to discuss it with the ministers. There’s no need to personally report everything to me this urgently.”
The Imperial Duke’s case was reopened at the request of Qin Shiyu, Lord Qin himself. He knelt down at the Nanzhe gate for three whole days and nights before the emperor granted his consent. However, the duke’s identity — being the emperor’s own brother, meant that the case obviously warranted a thorough investigation since it pertained to the royal family and what occurred fourteen years ago was nothing short of an extermination. Since it was the emperor himself who closed the case, it was very unpleasant for him to reopen it after so many years, and also being coerced by public opinion.
The emperor lifted his eyes and looked at Jing Rong again, “But I am happy that you came in to see me in such a hurry. The past six months must have been hard for you, and this case is no simple one; it’ll require even more effort to resolve.”
Jing Rong’s face remained impassive and grave. To an onlooker, this may be proof of his reverence toward the authority of his father, but only the emperor himself knew that Jing Rong only thought of him with the respect of a subordinate, and not with the affection of a son. Jing Rong nodded and said, “Worry not, father. I have taken responsibility for this case, and I shall see to the end of it.”
“Have you made any progress over the last few months?”
“I have been to many places without gaining much insight. However, I brought someone back this time, and that person will surely help me reveal the truth behind the case.”
‘Oh?’ His answer piqued the emperor’s interest.
Even Jing Hua had his curiosity aroused. He took two steps forwards and asked rather disbelievingly, “Who could be so capable? Even the Imperial Court had no answers for this case, and yet you say that that person can solve it?”
Jing Hua evidently did not believe what Jing Rong said. The case had stayed unresolved for years, and if both Jing Rong and the Supreme Court could do nothing about it, how could one person avail to anything? Jing Hua was firm in his incredulity, which was suggested by an obviously scornful look on his face.
Grenn’s Rants Corner
That’s it for the End-of-year mini-mass releases! I hope you enjoy it and Happy New Year!
The plot is beginning to get more complex.
- Note: in Ancient China, the royal family had the sole right of using dragons to decorate personal belongings (punishable by death otherwise). 9 is considered the greatest of the numbers, and so 9 dragons is usually used for the emperor himself, with lesser numbers for princes etc. ↩