Chapter 258 – To Keep or Not, It is an Easy Decision
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don’t read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
Reasonable and practical! Since Concubine Xiao had plainly stated her intentions, Lord Liang had no need to play the fool anymore.
Concubine Xiao was undoubtedly a clever woman; she caught on to the fact that he had just tragically lost his daughter, and she would need his help to kick Ji Muqing out of the selection. Then, with him at the forefront, she had a ready scapegoat and would not need to stain her own hands. What a well-thought out plan!
Minister Liang questioned after a long while, “Why is Your Ladyship helping me?”
“Xu’er, that poor thing. I can’t bear to see her tragic death go unavenged. Furthermore, the Crown Princess must be carefully selected. This would have future implications on the bloodline of our Great Lin; hence, I am sharing these with you. You must understand that this Imperial One is on your side.” Her real motives were hidden very well! She wanted Ji Muqing as her own daughter-in-law, gathering the power held in Secretary Ji and General Ji’s hands for her own son’s struggle for the throne!
Minister Liang took some time to digest what Concubine Xiao said and began to worry, “That firstborn daughter of the Ji family is the Crown Prince’s consort chosen by His Majesty and the late Empress; with Ji Li and Ji Heng at her back, this official thinks it would be difficult to make any changes.”
“Lord Liang need not lose sleep over this matter; since this Imperial One is on your side, there will no doubt be a way out.”
Hearing this, Liang Zongzheng gritted his teeth, “Alright, this official will carry out this deal at Your Ladyship’s word, even if it is just to take revenge for Xu’er’s poor soul in heaven.” He did not seem to notice the smile on Concubine Xiao’s face.
He briefly considered again, “Then, if the Crown Princess were to be re-selected, who would be a suitable candidate?”
“Does Lord Liang remember Princess Huiwen whom His Majesty personally granted the title not too long ago?”
“Huiwen is the late Empress’s niece and comes from noble origins; now that she also carries the title of ‘Princess’, it would not be strange for the title of Crown Prince’s consort to also belong to her.”
“But…” His brows furrowed, “The Kong family has long fallen from grace – His Majesty would never agree.”
In the fight for the throne, there were no idiots – even if a consort was to be selected, most princes would pick someone with a strong background! Moreover, the Crown Prince has yet to ascend to the throne, and would therefore pick someone with even more influence as his consort to further cement his position! Concubine Xiao had anticipated this and developed a foolproof plan.
Hence, the two of them secretly plotted for over an hour in Zhangzhi Hall. Minister Liang was genuinely surprised after hearing Concubine Xiao’s plan – who would have thought that women of the harem had such foresight and wits! How frightening!
He rose from his seat and clasped his fists in salute, “Then, this official will first take his leave.”
Concubine Xiao nodded in approval. After Lord Liang left, Jing Yi appeared from behind the folding screen, watching after Lord Liang’s figure in the distance. He turned to his mother, “Would this Lord Liang reveal anything unintentionally? His daughter has just died and he must be very muddled; would he screw up our plans?” Jing Yi’s worries were not unfounded; Lord Liang had just lost his only daughter and would now have to participate in this elaborate scheme. If the plan were to fall apart because of him, who would bear the consequences?
Concubine Xiao laughed, her attention on her perfectly painted fingernails, “Even if something were to go wrong, it would be Lord Liang’s fault; if it comes to that, just say that he did these things for his daughter’s revenge – it’s not unbelievable.”
True, no one would doubt it! Jing Yi, however, sat down, brows knitted together, “I thought that no matter how lacking the firstborn daughter of the Ji Family was, she wasn’t a cruel woman. From this issue, it seems like she really is such a person.” Wouldn’t he die early from having this wretch by his side?
In reality, Concubine Xiao was equally, if not more, dissatisfied; she would not accept even if such a daughter-in-law were to be served on a silver platter to her for free. But- “For the title of Crown Prince, Yi’er, you must marry her. If you were to become the future Emperor, it would become an easy decision whether you want to keep that woman or not.”
What she meant was, the decision to kill her or not could be made so easily! For the title of Crown Prince, for the throne, all Jing Yi could do was to grit his teeth and force himself to swallow this foul-smelling ‘medicine’.
At the Rong Estate.
Jing Rong was still contemplating what birthday gift to prepare for his Imperial Father’s birthday. He decided to take Ji Yunshu’s advice and hence looked over the list Lu Jiang prepared earlier for an expensive gift. There were countless items listed, but none caught his fancy.
“Your Highness, all of the precious items are already listed here,” Lu Jiang offered.
Jing Rong muttered to himself, “Something more high-profile? What should we present?”
“How about this Eight Deities folding screen? Such a gift would surely be appropriate for His Majesty’s chambers.”
“No,” Jing Rong refuted immediately. He asked Lu Jiang once more, “What are the Crown Prince and Prince Yi presenting this year?”
“The records are not available yet.”
Jing Rong sighed. If it were like previous years, all he had to do was to present an inkbrush, sparing him all this trouble! If that’s the case – he slapped his thigh, “Come, let’s head for Bamboo Creek Garden!” Time to visit my little wife! Lu Jiang wanted to tag along, but was forbidden by Jing Rong.
Upon reaching Bamboo Creek Garden, Jing Rong was shocked at the sight of the courtyard – all 67 coffins had been opened. Brush in hand, Ji Yunshu circled these coffins, checking with the name list of the Imperial Duke’s household she obtained from the Ministry of Revenue. Engrossed in her work, she had not noticed Jing Rong’s arrival.
Jing Rong’s face grew worried. He approached her, “Are there problems with all these skeletons?” Ji Yunshu was startled by his voice suddenly ringing by her ear, her brush almost fell to the ground.
She steadied herself and took a deep breath, waving the list as she explained, “I discovered that of the listed 67 servants in the Imperial Duke’s estate, 31 were female and 36 were male. Of these skeletons, the numbers of female skeletons matched up and so the missing corpse must be male. Of these 36 men, eight were aged above 65 years old – these corpses are easily identifiable from the density of the bones and are all present. Additionally, there are 15 bodies aged between 12 and 20 years old which I have identified. The remaining age groups would be difficult to distinguish without more advanced technology and tools, so, the missing servant can be cross-checked and identified with the last 13 sets of male skeletons.” This would be much more time-efficient – there would be no need to work on this for over a year!
Jing Rong was astonished at Ji Yunshu’s discovery, “If what you said is true, then we are one more step closer to the truth.”
Ji Yunshu nodded. Just as she was about to speak, a servant ran in from the front yard, paying his respects to Jing Rong, “This servant pays his respects to Prince Rong.”
Jing Rong recognised this man – he was one of Qin Shiyu’s men, “What’s the matter?”
“Lord Qin sent this servant to inform Teacher Ji that Old General Li wants to meet him.”