Chapter 152 – Guilty of Offending People
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don’t read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
Inside the carriage, Jing Rong and Ji Yunshu sat in front of each other. Only the rattling of the carriage and their regular breathing filled the silence between them, making the atmosphere more awkward as time passed. After a long time, Ji Yunshu glanced at Jing Rong and finally spoke, “In fact, your Highness doesn’t need to go with me.”
“I didn’t come to accompany you. Today, I also want to go see my imperial father. The situation at the border is pressing. Yesterday, I received a message to report back to the palace.”
Jing Rong paused a bit before continuing in a grave tone, “Although Concubine Xiao has lived in the depths of the palace for a long time, you cannot underestimate her. You should have already clearly understood this after what happened during her birthday feast.”
Ji Yunshu nodded. “I understand.”
“You must be on guard against her. If I haven’t guessed wrong, she summoned you to the palace for two reasons. On the surface, it’s to inquire about the progress of the missing girls case, but underneath, her desire is inevitably linked to the power and position of her son.” As his explanation reached this point, Jing Rong became a bit worried. He was not worried about being Concubine Xiao’s target of assassination. Instead, he was anxious that Concubine Xiao wanted to rope Ji Yunshu into her faction. Considering how Ji Yunshu was stubborn, she would immediately refuse, and there is a high possibility that she would become Concubine Xiao’s second target for assassination.
Seeing the concerned look on Jing Rong’s face, Ji Yunshu simply smiled without saying anything.
“Did you understand what I just said?” Jing Rong heavily frowned.
“Since it has already happened, let’s take it calmly. You don’t need to worry about me. Even if Concubine Xiao took the initiative to take control of the situation and wanted to play her chess pieces, I will make sure that she won’t be able to place the pieces on the board or even be able to reach for it.”
Ji Yunshu showed an enigmatic smile. From Jing Rong’s words, she understood a thing or two about the woman called Concubine Xiao. Jing Rong did not fully grasp the complete meaning behind Ji Yunshu’s words. He faintly warned her, “In short, be careful. Women who have lived in the harem are extremely terrifying, especially those who can survive well without falling. They are considered monsters.” Ji Yunshu agreed with Jing Rong. However, she could not help feeling amused and used her white and slender fingers to cover her curled lips.
A small breeze blew into the carriage, lifting the curtain and billowing Ji Yunshu’s wide sleeve. As the wind stirred inside the carriage, it brushed against her hair, making her long chevelure dance. At times, strands of hair flew and partially concealed her face. It was a sight to behold!
Whenever Jing Rong’s sight lingered on Ji Yunshu, his icy eyes would always melt into a conflagration of passion. He was willing to light himself on fire to remain by her side. But, after a second, he lifted the window curtain and averted his gaze towards the scene outside while changing the subject. “We’re approaching the palace gates.”
Ji Yunshu followed his gaze. Last time, they were in a rush to enter the palace, so she was waiting for the occasion to take a closer look at those grand and imposing gates. Visible to all, the signboard marking the south gate hung high above the gates, aligned right into the center. The blazing golden character written on it, similar to the chill oozing from the icy wind, gave the impression that each stroke was a complex network of blood vessels coursing through a human body. The words, devoid of warmth, could not be more representative of the core reality of the palace. Everything within the palace has been thoroughly permeated by coldness, tantamount to a snow palace. Thus, it could explain why whoever lived inside would transform into tortured souls.
Jing Rong discussed with Ji Yunshu, “I don’t care about your plan. It’s better to be vigilant at all times. So, be more careful. After I’m done reporting to imperial father, I will wait for you at the south gate.”
“Your Highness should focus your thoughts on the situation at the borders. The recent invasion of Qujiang has caused turmoil at our borders, a problem that truly caused lots of headaches. If I’ve guessed correctly, the emperor might want to discuss with you about a strategy to solve this situation. You should put your mind into finding a good solution.”
‘Eh?’ Jing Rong abruptly froze. In fact, he froze from shock. He knew that Ji Yunshu was intelligent from the murder cases’ investigation. However, he never knew that her cleverness gave her such a clear understanding of the situation within the imperial court and the empire. He could not help but marvel at her and asked, “Since you already know about the situation, do you have a good plan?”
She shook her head. “Your Highness, I was just guessing. I don’t have any good countermeasure. I was just thinking, what could be the benefit of this war. It’s alright to grab resources or territories, but in the end, the ones who will suffer from this are only the common people. Since ancient times, there should be no monarch who wanted to be known to sacrifice his people for the sake of achieving his ambitions and consolidating his supremacy.” She spoke with indifference, without any fluctuations in her intonation as if she was having a casual conversation.
Opposite of her, Jing Rong was overflowing with admiration. “Who informed you about all of this?”
“I gathered some information from the Lin annals and memorized some of it. I was just speaking casually, don’t mind my words.” Her explanations made him a bit skeptical.
‘What Lin annals?!’ Ji Yunshu absolutely did not even spend a second on it. What she based herself on is the knowledge she gained from her conversations with Ji Pei. During the two years they were together, Ji Pei had taught Ji Yunshu how to write and showed her some tactics and military strategies. Due to being interested in the subject, Ji Yunshu put lots of effort into absorbing knowledge. What she told Jing Rong came from a conversation she had with Ji Pei long ago.
“The greatest enemy of this world isn’t the one standing in front of you, but the swords, spears and weapons of the soldiers. The best thing to do is to spend all your effort in protecting the common people.” Once said Ji Pei.
At that time, Ji Yunshu did not understand his words, but with time, she gradually comprehended it. In exchange for the greater ambition of uniting the whole world, it came with the cost of people rebelling. A great emperor can easily turn into the next Qin Shi Huang1.
Jing Rong gawked at her and mutters, “Thank you very much.”
“I didn’t say anything worthy of your thanks.” Ji Yunshu lowered her eyes. Once again, she had overstepped her status with her speech.
“No, you have roused my mind.”
“This is because your Highness has a sharp mind.”
Her reply made Jing Rong smile. It’s true that Ji Yunshu did not suggest to him any good plan and was only casually speaking with him. ‘Hmm…’ Since she did not want to take credit for words casually spoken, he would not force her.
The carriage parked outside the gate. After they disembarked, they parted ways since their destinations differed. Before separating, Jing Rong remembered to warn her again in addition to reminding her that he will wait for her at the south gate. Ji Yunshu acquiesced before following a eunuch to Zhangzhi hall.
On their way to Zhangzhi hall, there was a furnace placed at every dozen of steps causing a big contrast of temperature in the cold weather. Finally, they reached the hall and Ji Yunshu waited outside for her summons while the eunuch went inside to announce her arrival. A moment later, the eunuch came out. “Please come in, Teacher Ji.”
She stepped inside. Her movements caused her wide sleeves to billow, brushing along her sides. Her posture was upright and she did not reveal a single trace of nervousness. As she went inside, she caught sight of a curtain of muslin hanging from the roof beam. The muslin was thin enough to make out the silhouette of a woman sitting at a position where an imperial consort would be, but it made her features hazy.
Gradually, the curtain parted. Concubine Xiao, whose face made her looked as if time had forgotten her, clearly reflected in Ji Yunshu’s eyes. The imperial concubine was wearing a violet brocade gown which had a phoenix tail embroidered on it. On the hem of her skirt, dark rose stems could be seen as they climbed upward and blossomed all over her gown.
Magnificent and unmatched were words that perfectly described Concubine Xiao. It was no wonder the emperor favored her so much. Her beauty must be the main reason! In the end, all emperors loved beauties, a fact unchanged since time immemorial.
- Qin Shi Huang is the first emperor of Qin who unified China and ended the Warring States era. His reign was punctuated with many controversies and he became obsessed with the futile search of the elixir of immortality in the later years of his reign. For more information, click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qin_Shi_Huang ↩