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[Start of Book 3: Watching Him Raise A Tall Building, Entertain Guests In It, Collapse It]
Once the body died, yin and yang separated.
Even though Liang Jiuxiao had once attempted to brutishly assassinate Jing Qi before, he had never truly stained his hands with human blood. Closing his eyes, the smell of earth mixed with the stench of blood and pelted down upon him, as if they were about to soundly bury him. The woman’s arms that wouldn’t let go in death, and the little girl’s eyes staring wide like they were going to split…
A man not crying easily was only because he had not yet reached the point of heartbreak.
He didn’t know how he had gotten back to the capital, nor how he got to sleep, but he knew how he came to be scared awake from a nightmare. The instant he opened his eyes, an ardent hope arose within him that the tragedy in that dream was entirely fake, and came entirely out of his biased imagination. Once he washed his face and woke fully up, he would recall that the little girl was still living well at the Jiang house, and she would nag him about sneaking out to go bug the Prince about the godfather and wife issue.
He froze there for a while, then suddenly remembered… that it was all real.
There was a nightmare when he closed his eyes, and a nightmare when he opened them, too. The human realm seemed to be endless and without edges. Even the torrents of the sea of bitterness were in his heart, frequently making him feel pain like he was drowning.
The door was pushed open from the outside with a creak, and Zhou Zishu stood in the entryway. Liang Jiuxiao turned his head to look at him mutely, expression vacant. Zhou Zishu couldn’t resist sighing, walking in to sit next to him on the bed. “Can’t sleep?”
He shook his head sluggishly. Zhou Zishu sat in silence for a bit, then took him by the shoulders, just like how he had done when he was very young — though, the numbskull boy had already grown so big, it was difficult for him to fully shrink into his arms again. The latter was only able to get into an awkward pose, his body bent like a prawn, to lean against his chest.
Zhou Zishu realized all of a sudden that this separation of many years had been an unfeeling era, and everyone had long been smudged until nothing remained the same of them.
The Crown Prince couldn’t sleep, the Prince couldn’t sleep, and he himself couldn’t sleep, either.
And the Emperor? He was probably sleeping well in the middle of the evening, and would need to wait to be roused awake.
Nevertheless, he thought incorrectly. In reality, Helian Pei wasn’t asleep, and had woken up abruptly in the middle of the night. It was unknown what he had dreamed of, but his heart was palpitating somewhat. The pretty concubine next to him sat up and slowly rubbed his chest, but he couldn’t fall asleep again. Once he asked the time, he figured Eunuch Xi would be back soon, so he kept his eyes open in wait.
Eunuch Xi only returned at nearly fourth watch.(1-3am) This secretariat-originated eunuch was an elder in the palace, but when he came back, his hair was disheveled, and he was almost crawling away in a panic.
Helian Pei shortly sat up, called for all the maids and concubines to withdraw, and leaned half of his body forward. “What is it? Did Jiang Zheng have the audacity to defy the decree?”
Eunuch Xi quickly gasped in some breaths, then threw himself to the ground, voice trembling. “Answering Your Majesty, this… this old slave met a group of black-clothed assassins halfway through the journey, and there was a long fight— I don’t know where they came from, but their arts were excellent, and I had believed that I wouldn’t be seeing you ever again. But there was a whistle all of a sudden, and they all drew back. I didn’t understand why this happened but didn’t dare to delay, and continued to travel to catch up with Sir Jiang. The place that was planned to be reached forty li south of the city is right between counties and scarce of people. I considered ousting them from there to save some of Sir Jiang’s face, and once it was done, I’d order the family to continue on their way, able to pull wool over everyone’s eyes… who could’ve… who could’ve known…”
Helian Pei coughed worriedly. “What?”
“The dozen or so members of Jiang Zheng’s family have all been killed at a deserted temple, with not even the animals that accompanied them spared.”
Helian Pei was shocked. Soon after, he suddenly grabbed the bed sheet, his fingers grasping it so tightly that they started to shake. “What… what did you say?”
“Your Majesty, Sir Jiang’s entire family was dead in the temple for reasons unknown. The assassins didn’t even deal with the bodies properly. There was a shallow pit to the side, maybe they didn’t have time for it… Sir Jiang and them were… were just left to dry there…”
Helian Pei seized his jade pillow and threw it on the ground, knocking a corner off of it. A crisp sound rang out. “…Bastard.” He lowly squeezed the word out of his throat, leaning powerlessly against the headboard. “Bastard!”
Eunuch Xi didn’t dare to say a word more, merely kneeling to the side. A long while after, Helian Pei spoke in quiet voice. “Transmit the order to go to the Second Scion’s Estate through the night and confiscate everything!”
The chaos of battles was everywhere, but the majority of people inside the capital had no idea. They would sleep through this night to a sky transformed the next day.
The Emperor wanting to kill Jiang Zheng was him bestowing grace. Eunuch Xi would naturally handle the matter of his death tidily, leave it settled for him, and allow Jiang Zheng to die on the official road in a way where even gods and ghosts wouldn’t know the facts.
Moreover, if the monarch wanted a subject dead, the subject couldn’t not die.
But what did Helian Qi do? Bought assassins, and didn’t let any elder or child off! Such means made one’s hair stand on end, one’s heart chill! Helian Pei promptly remembered that day in the Imperial Clan Court, and what Helian Qi had said to him in tears while locked up. He thought his son had made a huge blunder, to not neglect to falsely charge his brother that was running about on his behalf while he was in prison. So malicious, so inhuman — it was simply terrifying…
His motive… was appalling!
Three thousand royal soldiers held the imperial decree up high and charged into the Second Scion’s Estate without warning. In the instant of roiling turmoil, Helian Qi came out of the room of a boy he kept, his clothes not fully done. He wasn’t alarmed, merely having a cold smile on his face. Eunuch Xi turned away, almost unable to bear looking at him.
When daybreak came, more than thirty million taels of genuine gold and white silver were sussed out and seized from the Estate, which was nearly an entire year’s worth of income for the Great Qing’s public treasury. Further still were many antiques and treasures, making the rampantly accrued wealth simply infuriating. Apart from Daoist Li were a couple dozen minor practitioners, who made pills and cultivated evil methods on the daily, that were hanging out with beautiful catamites in the Estate, making a noxious atmosphere that was terrible to look at. In addition, there was a receipt — thirty-thousand taels of silver bought Sir Jiang’s life.
The evidence was a mountain.
However, during the entire period his house was getting raided to the time he was bound in the palace, Helian Qi’s expression was utterly calm. He knelt properly before Helian Pei as if he had done nothing wrong.
“Helian Qi, do you know your crime?” Helian Pei coldly asked.
Helian Qi sized up his surroundings, and discovered that outside of his father’s couple of trusted aides, not even the Crown Prince was present. He couldn’t resist mentally sneering. The older this old man actually got, the more heavily paranoid, and the more fond of his reputation, he became. The corner of his mouth curved. “Father Emperor, crimes have been added onto me. I have no worries, nor anything to say.”
Helian Pei was angered straight into trembling, and smashed a teacup onto the other’s forehead. “You… you… unfilial son… you’re actually this insane, to purchase the assassination of a Dynasty offical, not even sparing the elders and children?! Everyday, I teach you benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, truthfulness — was it all said for dogs to hear?!”
Helian Qi softly closed his eyes. “Father Emperor, I—“
“You still want to object?! Then what is this?!” Helian Pei slapped that receipt onto the table, anger sky-high as he glared at his former son.
Helian Qi went on anyways. “—only want to ask you something. In light of the statements of those gentlemen that had raided my house, how did you find out about those recently-dead people in the wilderness so quickly?”
He appeared somewhat crazed, glancing at Helian Pei with a not-smile. The expression on the latter’s face froze. Father and son both stared coldly at each other, as if the one opposite them wasn’t a blood relative, but a foe they could never reconcile with.
After a while, Helian Pei spoke flatly, and without emotion. “Lock him in the Clan Court. You want to go mad, so you can go in there and be mad for a lifetime.”
Helian Qi cackled like an owl. As he was forcibly dragged out, that laughter still echoed from the side, sounding extraordinarily shrill.
He staggered along the whole way, swaying from side to side as he was pulled outside, but, at the doorway, he saw Helian Yi hastily rush up to beg for leniency, and his laughter just stopped. Helian Yi looked at him like he couldn’t take this. “Brother, bear with it a bit for a couple of days. I’ll go and speak with Father Emperor, you—“
“Helian Yi.” Helian Qi cut him off, opening those evil and beautiful eyes wide, and paused between every word. “You are tremendous. I can’t fight you.”
Helian Yi stopped talking, only watching Helian Qi open his mouth and say in a low voice: “There will be retribution.”
The guards dragging him hurriedly pulled him away from before the Crown Prince. As they pulled him far away, Helian Qi kept looking back, staring at Helian Yi with a fake smile, and repeating himself until his voice could no longer be heard. “There will be retribution.”
Jing Beiyuan had told Zhou Zishu that too many wrongdoings would bring ruin to oneself, and that was a principle that applied to any one, at any place, at any time.
Helian Qi went to prison to be incarcerated for his entire lifetime; that news spread around, and his final ensemble abandoned his sinking ship. Su Qingluan paced back and forth in a room without end, her mind in tumult. All of a sudden, the door was pushed open, and her personal servant, little Hua Yue, entered with swift steps from the outside. “My Lady, have you heard—“
Su Qingluan quickly held up a finger to shush her.
Hua Yue quieted her voice. “My Lady, His Second Highness has been imprisoned. We have to save him.” Su Qingluan and she had both been bought from their troupe by Daoist Li, departing that depraved profession, and she knew that the Second Scion was their great benefactor.
She had also peeked at Helian Qi from a distance before. Whether by coincidence or not, he just so happened to raise his head like he had sensed it, and met with her gaze, smiling slightly at her. In her mind, he thought that the Second Highness was a god-like figure, so noble and beautiful. Knowing herself to be lowly and unworthy of yearning for him, she thus wanted to do anything for him. Even if she died like this, her worries would be over with.
Su Qingluan immediately jumped in fright on hearing that. “S… s… save him?” she asked, dazed. “What means do I have to save him?”
“He was framed by someone. I have an insider, we will find a way to expose this…”
“Who did it?” Su Qingluan asked hurriedly.
Hua Yue laughed coldly. “Can’t you tell, My Lady? Who else could it be, aside from the Crown Prince?”
Su Qingluan’s eyes widened, and she stared at her incredulously. “Is that the truth?”
Hua Yue nodded. “It is absolutely the truth. No matter how daring this maid is, I would never dare to dupe you like this, My Lady. I won’t keep it from you; that insider is at Prince Nan’ning’s Estate, and he’s the Prince’s personal attendant, Ji Xiang.”
Su Qingluan watched her with endless bewilderment for a time, then suddenly calmed down, her mind also getting to work. Lowering her eyes, she replied in a hushed voice, “This cannot be spoken of. You will never bring this up again. If you do, I cannot keep you here.”
Hua Yue was taken aback, “My Lady, what are you saying? The Second Scion is—“
“He was kind to us, of course,” Su Qinluan impatiently interrupted her, “and we’ve lied in wait by the Crown Prince’s side for him. We don’t owe him anything. Now that the trend of his downfall is a certainty, who else could we count on, aside from the Crown Prince? You must shut your mouth tight.”
Hua Yue opened her mouth, speechless.
“I’ll ask you this.” Su Qingluan gazed at her with a somewhat fierce look. “Do you want to survive, or not?”
Hua Yue nodded mutely, and Su Qingluan reached out to caress her tender and adorable face. “Good, then. Listen to me. To not only allow yourself to live, but live well for the rest of your life… go to the Prince Estate and think of a way to invite Ji Xiang out. The faster, the better.”
Hua Yue watched her for a long time, then made up her mind on something. Gritting her teeth, she nodded, and left.
The translator says: It’s easy to say Helian Qi killed the Jiangs. But why do that, and thus so easily incriminate himself, when he was already on thin ice? How could he have done so, when shunned and under house arrest? Why spare Eunuch Xi, allowing him to discover the scene and run back to tell? How would Zhou Zishu know to knock Liang Jiuxiao out in advance? Why would Jing Qi’s conscience hurt, if he didn’t know what was coming?
It all makes a lot more sense to say Helian Yi and Zhou Zishu did it, eh?