TOMAS Chapter 67

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Chapter 67 Abysmal: Consequence

Despite Feng Luodi’s absence, the Autumnal Hunt ended fruitfully. However, the highlight of the hunt this year  was not the various game caught by the participants, nor the successful bonfire hosted by the Heir, but the detainment of the 7th Prince by the Judicial Bureau.

Chamberlain Feng had not returned home in the days following the end of the Autumnal Hunt, waist-deep in the investigation assigned to him. He was given full reign over the investigation, but he was aware how thin a line he was treading, investigating the crimes of the royalty. Of course, there was much more evidence to support the 7th Prince’s misdeeds along with those already uncovered at the Autumnal Hunt.

“Your Majesty, we have evidence that the 7th Prince has accepted bribes from the Governor of the Yelang* Commandery, in order to suppress  the murder case in the Commandery involving eleven serial murders.”

“Your Majesty, the 7th Prince has forcefully abducted and kept eight innocent young women of Chang’an in his residence.”

Your Majesty, I have evidence that the 7th Prince has been encouraging his Household defender to plunder the resources of commoners.

……………

The Emperor’s face darkened as the days went by and the accusations against the 7th Prince stacked up. He could have stripped the prince of his royalty and cast him into the Imperial Prison, but he did not. Many speculated that the Emperor was unable to do so to the prince because, after all, he was of his own blood. Chamberlain Feng understood the complicated emotions the Emperor was feeling, but had no choice but to dig further to fulfill his duties.

“Why hasn’t the Emperor charged him yet?” Feng Luodi was confused. “I’m sure they have more than enough evidence on hand to indict him. Or is it because he cannot bear to destroy his own son?”

Jiang Moyin shook his head. “The Emperor is much more ruthless than that.”

The two of them were sitting in a private room at the famed zither parlour Flowers of Fog. The melodious voice of Crystal, the famed songstress of the parlour, floated through the doors. Qi Jianqiu and Gan Qingjia sat at the table as well, entranced by the skillful singing, while Xue Yiqi kept looking out of the door, anticipating Situ’s arrival.

“You don’t understand why now, do you?” Gan Qingjia interrupted their conversation. “Of course the Emperor wants to indict the prince because of his misdeeds – and don’t even get me started on that list. But,” Gan Qingjia held a slender finger in the air, “Concubine Shu, the mother of the 7th Prince, is the daughter of the previous Minister of the Left. Although the man has resigned, many of his past followers and subordinates still remain in office, and can still be a force to be reckoned with. Unless there is a reason important enough to calm those officials, the 7th Prince will not be stripped of his royal status.”

“That is correct.” Jiang Moyin nodded in approval.

Qi Jianqiu stared suspiciously at Gan Qingjia, not believing that he was capable of such an intelligent deduction. For a brief moment, she almost saw Gan Qingjia as something other than a useless playboy, but he gave her his usual flirtatious smile and she turned away immediately. I must have been mistaken. I’m sure he’d heard that from the Minister of the Left.

Feng Luodi smiled. “I never knew that even those in power have so much to consider. I’d originally thought that he would have at least been exiled, simply because of his attempted assassination on the Heir.”

The few of them stared at her, and shook their heads. “That is impossible. Of course, if a commoner was to assassinate the Heir, his entire clan would be killed. But after all, the 7th Prince is of royal descent. The worst that can happen to him is to throw him a plot of land somewhere else in the kingdom, and ban him from ever entering Chang’an again.”

“Oh, I see.” Feng Luodi’s smile widened glaringly, a flash of light in her eyes. “Then there is nothing to look forward to, I guess.” I guess this is how Ancient China is like – oppressive. Can we do nothing but to shiver and obey in the face of sheer power and royalty? Little did Feng Luodi know how much her thoughts rang through – how futile her future struggles were to be when facing a daunting power she had yet to encounter.

The room fell silent. Crystal’s voice floated into the room, but it sounded extremely far away, fleeting even. When Feng Luodi snapped back to reality, she suddenly realised the effect her words had on the room. What I just said wasn’t characteristic of  someone from this world! Before she could attempt to recover the atmosphere, a man lifted the veil of the room and walked in. Dressed in a brown undershirt and a robe of dark red, Situ’s high collar was gilded with golden swirls, a colour matching with his waistcloth of shimmering gold. Ornamental threads of interwoven purple and gold hung from his chest, and a thick cloak hung from his shoulders. One look at his formal dressing was enough to deduce that he had just came from the palace.

“The news regarding the indictment of the 7th Prince will definitely be announced by today.” Situ sat down at the table.

Jiang Moyin was surprised. “What? How did the Emperor come to a decision so suddenly!”

“Because he is about to receive a very important piece of information. Speaking of which, Chamberlain Feng should be heading into the palace right about now.” Situ’s lips curled upwards in a grin and raised a cup of tea to his lips.

“News? What news? Stop teasing us!” Qi Jianqiu quickly became impatient.

Situ did not look at her, but shot a sidewards glance at Feng Luodi, who had not spoken a word since he’d entered the room. “Dream Mirrors, Emerald, and the Ailao people. That’s all I’m going to say; you’ll hear about the rest soon enough.”

Qi Jianqiu pouted. Hmph! Well that was real helpful. I don’t even know anything that happened during the Autumnal Hunt! However, Jiang Moyin jolted upright in his chair, putting down his tea.

“Since when did you uncover the truth?” Xue Yiqi and Gan Qingjia looked at him confusedly.

Situ nodded. “Before the Hunt.”

Jiang Moyin’s expression changed multiple times. “I’m sure you let others inform his Majesty of this news, didn’t you?”

Situ nodded again. “Of course.”

Jiang Moyin thought for a moment, and quickly took his leave. “My apologies, I have some important matters to take care of.” He hurriedly left the room, ignoring the inquiring looks from the rest of the room, save Situ.

“Where’s Second Brother going? He looks like he’s in a hurry.” Xue Yiqi rubbed his head.

“He’s going to be busy for the next few days.” Gan Qingjia said calmly, as if he understood what was happening.

Xue Yiqi turned to Qi Jianqiu for help, who shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly, curious but unperturbed by what happened. He turned to Situ again, but upon seeing his elder brother’s expressionless face, turned back to his cup of tea with a sigh. Feng Luodi shot a look at Situ, deep in thought. Situ had told me before that the Emperor can be a little paranoid. The only thing important enough for the Emperor to indict the 7th Prince would be if he was suspected of treason. Seeing as how Emerald is probably of Ailao descent from what Situ had said, does this means that the 7th Prince was affiliated with Emerald as well? But when elder brother was telling us about the crimes the prince was accused of, it did not have anything to do with Emerald nor Dream Mirrors! Am I overthinking things?

“I’ll send you back.” Situ suddenly turned to Feng Luodi, interrupting her train of thoughts. He added, “The Chamberlain is not at home.”

Feng Luodi blinked a few times. Why does that sound so…suspicious?

Situ stood up, and quickly left with Feng Luodi behind him. Xue Yiqi remembered his duties and took his leave as well, and only two remained in the room. When Qi Jianqiu finally reacted to the situation, she turned to see Gan Qingjia smiling at her flirtatiously from across the table. She glared at him, and quickly turned away.

“Do you want to invite Miss Crystal in, so that we can listen to her singing up close?” Gan Qingjia proposed.

That earned another glare from Qi Jianqiu. “All you know to do is to play punk! Hmph!”

Gan Qingjia blinked his eyes innocently. What exactly did I just do?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As soon as Feng Luodi and Situ hit the streets, a gust of cold wind swept through the streets. Feng Luodi shuddered. “It seems like Winter is coming.”

Situ took a look at what Feng Luodi was wearing, and shook his head. “You’re dressed too thinly for this weather.” He took off his cape and handed it to her. Feng Luodi took it from him gratefully, but quickly regretted her decision when she put it on quickly.

I should have known that his cape wouldn’t fit me! Now I look like a fool with the cape dragging on the floor behind me. Argh, it’s not like I had any other choice.

She quickly diverted her attention elsewhere. “So the 7th Prince is affiliated with Emerald?”

Situ raised an eyebrow. “My my, aren’t you a bright one.”

“But what exactly is their relationship?” Feng Luodi guessed haphazardly. “Are you going to tell me that Emerald is actually a princess of the Ailao kingdom, and was in Chang’an as a hostage between the two countries when the 7th Prince fell for her beauty?” She quickly backpedaled. “Wait a minute, that can’t be it. Isn’t the 7th Prince an admirer of Linglong from Moonglade?”

Situ sighed. “Just when I praised you for being smart too…”

Feng Luodi shot him a glance. “Just tell me already! I’m sure you were going to say anyway.”

Situ silently let out a breath. He was worried that Feng Luodi would shun him on account of Chamberlain Feng, but it seemed as if that was not the case.

Dream Mirrors is the 7th Prince’s source of information, and he’d used the establishment to control some officials in court through blackmailing and other underhanded means. I bet he wasn’t aware of Emerald’s true identity when he’d chosen the zither parlour as his base of operations, but now the Emperor suspects him of treason because of his affiliation with the Ailao princess.”

“Are you saying that Emerald was perhaps about to use the prince for her own means as well, but had her plans foiled because of the prince?” Feng Luodi gasped, and Situ nodded.

Situ’s lips curled upwards as he watched Feng Luodi connect the dots. I pray she never finds out the role that Jiang Moyin has to play in this – he will be the one to deal the deciding blow against the 7th Prince.


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