The atmosphere in the palace became increasingly intense, nobody was paying any of their concern to Emperor Zhaoyang’s corpse lying on the lounge anymore as their attention was instead directed towards the two distinctively separate decrees of succession.
Zhang Nianling is truly worthy of being an official who has been serving through three dynasties since he is still not backing down despite being angered to the point of coughing out several mouthfuls of blood and was soon back to cussing about with vitality.
Liang Zhen did not pay any of his attention to him anymore as he received the two imperial decrees which has been circulated around in the hands of crowd. Casting down his gaze, he suddenly spoke up and ask a female among the concubines who was whimpering with her head bowed down: “Madam Zhaoyi, is the booklet that you received when you were promoted to the position of a consort ten days ago still in your chamber?”
Fang Zhaoyi was startled after her name was mentioned, and she only mumbled after quite a long while has past: “Yes, yes……”
Liang Zhen nodded slightly: “Then I’ll have to trouble Madam Zhaoyi to ask someone to fetch the booklet from your chamber.”
Fang Zhaoyi timidly said: “Zhao, Zhaowang…… what are you intending to do?”
Zhang Nianling and the others spoke with impatience: “What kind of tricks are you playing up at your sleeves again! We are now dealing with his majesty’s imperial decree! So what are you intending to do by requesting Madam Zhaoyi to bring in her booklet?!”
Liang Zhen’s line of sight turn towards those people, as a faintly discernible glimpse of sarcasm flash before his eyes: “Half a month ago, a corner of his majesty’s precious jade seal was accidentally broken by the ninth prince, although the seal was mended by gold, there will still be a slight difference in the imprint of the seal at the corner if you examine it closely. His majesty has been seriously ill over the past half month, and wasn’t able to manage court affairs, thus all the imperial edicts has halted production. Elders may not know this, but only ten days ago, his majesty is grateful of Madam Zhaoyi’s meritorious deed of successfully giving birth to the third prince and he thus promoted Madam Zhaoyi to her current position. Both the seal imprints on the imperial decree in my hands and her booklet should be identical, but as for the one that the several elders have……”
The entire palace is engulfed into an uproar, Zhang Nianling stared in disbelief: “How dare you sprout such absurdity, the jade seal is still perfectly intact when his majesty summoned us to the palace that day! It couldn’t have been damaged in any way! So, it’s obvious that you are making misleading remarks!”
“Is that so?” Liang Zhen indifferently replied and turn towards Imperial Consort Chen, “If not, then let’s hear what Madam Imperial Consort Chen has to say, didn’t you witness it yourself when the ninth prince naughtily broke his majesty’s jade seal?”
Imperial Consort Chen’s gaze flickered as she clutched her handkerchief, biting her lips tightly and refusing to say anything. After hearing no response, Liang Zhen nonchalantly ordered: “Then let’s bring in the servants who were by the ninth prince’s side for a clarification, there are definitely more then a few witnesses who were on the scene that day.”
Several nurserymaids and stewards were brought in, and they confessed everything due to panic after merely kneeling for awhile. On that day, the ninth prince did indeed damage the jade seal on accident, Imperial Consort Chen also forbade them spread the news, and merely push the blame onto another eunuch in the end.
Imperial Consort Chen rebuked due to panic: “But his majesty has been in a severe condition, thus he is unable to learn of this matter ah! He assume that the jade seal was still intact, so it must be you who had created a fabrication of the jade seal in order to deceive him!”
“Such absurdities,” Liang Zhen coldly sneered, “How is it possible for his majesty to not notice that the jade seal has been damaged? The eunuch who took the blame is still suffering from torture up till this day, don’t you think that your remark is overly ridiculous Madam Chen?”
Feng Sheng also added: “At that time, his majesty threw a huge tantrum over this and requested this servant to mend the jade seal with gold. So, allow this servant to fetch the jade seal right now.”
The three elder officials finally fell into a panic as Zhang Nianling glared at Liang Zhen with animosity: “This is totally absurd! How is it possible that…… It must be your own deed! It’s obvious that your traitor has planned this out in advance!”
Liang Zhen paid none of his concern to them anymore since the underlings from Fang Zhaoyi’s palace had already retrieved and brought in the booklet. After a comparison, it was apparent to the eye that the shade of imprint on the imperial decree that Liang Zhen presented forth is indeed identical, and the jade seal that Feng Sheng has brought in is truly mended by gold in the corner.
The way that the crowd looked at Zhang Nianling totally changed without an exception. Technically speaking, they naturally place more trust onto several governing officials compared to Liang Zhen, but now that the evidence is place in front of them and with imperial guards intently keeping a watch outside as an addition……
King Xian is the first one to take the initiative: “Damn you Zhang Nianling, can it be that you old pimps have the guts to conspire against the nation ruled over by our Zhu clan?”
Once this statement has been made, those families who were particularly hesitant to ponder over this matter lowered their heads in succession. Although they didn’t express their stance in the same way as King Xian did, they still subconsciously moved a little farther away from Zhang Nianling, evidently drawing a clear line by expressing their attitude. Zhang Nianling once again vomited a mouthful of blood due to frustration as another elder rebuked in a fluster: “You! You people intend to gang up for the sake of renouncing the throne after the emperor has merely ascended to heaven! You unfaithful bastards! This imperial decree of succession is undoubtedly written by his majesty the day when he summoned me into the palace! By doing this, you people aren’t allowing his majesty to rest in peace!”
King Xian glared with rage: “How dare you old pimps make such slanderous statements against others! It’s obvious that you guys are colluding with each other and pretending to act on an imperial order for the sake of conspiring for the throne! You are unable to explain yourselves once again now that the evidence is so conclusive!”
Feng Sheng added: “His majesty indeed summon the three elders into the palace that day, but this servant dismissed all the maids and others during your private discussion. Apart from the three elders, no one knows what exactly his majesty told you guys…… whether or not did he really pass an imperial order to you …… is also……”
“You lowly servant! How dare you sprout such absurdities!”
Zhang Nianling furiously interrupted him, as Feng Sheng slightly shrank back his neck and did not speak further. King Xian rolled his eyes then walk towards Zhu Yunxuan and courteously supported him up.
Apart from Zhang Nianling and several others who are still in frustration, everyone else’s eyes have already settled onto Zhu Yunxuan. Zhu Yunxuan furrowed his brows and swept a glance at the crowd in attendance with a solemn expression as King Xian took the initiative to get onto his knees: “This humble one will thus pay my courtesies to our new emperor, may the lord be long lived!”
Kowtowing with their foreheads touching the ground, the heartbeats of the crowd instantly jumped up to their throats. Liang Zhen glanced towards the three governing officials aside from Zhang Nianling. The few of them haven’t spoken up much just now and have only been on their knees with their heads lowered as if they weren’t involved in any of this: “What thoughts do you have regarding this Elder Liu, Elder Li, and Elder Deng?”
The three of them shiver with fear, the one in the lead raised his head slowly and avoided the cannibalistic-like gazes which Zhang Nianling and several others directed at them. After hesitating, he turn towards Zhu Yunxuan and got onto his knees while gritting his teeth. The other two immediately follow his lead and pay their courtesies to the new emperor together.
Imperial Consort Chen completely slumped onto the floor, knowing that the situation was hopeless.
In addition to Zhang Nianling and three others who were still conspicuously standing amidst the crowd, everyone from the assembling of clansmen to the concubines and even the male monarchies was already on their knees in front of Zhu Yunxuan. Liang Zhen gave a glance at the general of imperial guards, and Zhang Nianling as well as several others were captured in an instant while they were still persistent to put up a fight. But Liang Zhen no longer give the opportunity for them to do so and spoke with indifference: “Zhang Nianling, Wang Ci and Cao Xinrui, all three of them harbored ulterior motives and wear the pretense of acting on an imperial order for the sake of plotting mischief. And thus, they shall be imprisoned without any delay and await their punishment.”
Zhang Nianling only had enough time to cry out “the heaven has no mercy” before he was dragged away by the imperial guards after being silenced.
The crowd within the palace is shrouded in silence like cicadas during late autumn. Liang Zhen turned towards Zhu Yunxuan and frankly got onto his knees under the complicated gaze of the other party.
Zhu Yunxuan closed his eyes slightly, after calming down his overly unrestrained emotions, he placed an order in a deep voice: “According to the decree of the imperial examination, officials of the clan is required to be dressed in mourning clothes for the next twenty-seven days starting from today without slacking off.”
“As you command!” The crowd responded in unison.
The imperial order was passed throughout the palace while all the officials got down on their knees to pay their respect to the new emperor. For now, the dust is settled.
It’s already deep into the night as the commotion during the daytime has dissipated. Only Zhu Yunxuan remained in the mourning hall by himself after nightfall, quietly kneeling before the emperor’s coffin as the dim flickering candlelight reflected his unwavering features.
The echoing of footsteps sounded from behind, there’s no need for him to turn around in order to know who it is.
Liang Zhen strolled beside Zhu Yunxuan and sat down on his knees while whispering: “How many days had passed since your highness remained here? You haven’t even had two hours of rest each day, it couldn’t be that you are intending to exhaust yourself to death after merely ascending to the throne, right?”
Zhu Yunxuan’s gaze flickered, and he asked after a moment of silence: “How is the situation out there?”
“How else could it be, those who should be captured have already been captured, and those who should be silenced have already been silenced.”
The controversy of ascension has been widely publicized, even if Zhu Yunxuan ascended to the throne successfully, skeptical opinions nevertheless cannot be reduced. With the imprisonment of Zhang Nianling alone is enough to make the literary officials of the imperial court as well as all the scholars to harbor suspicion towards their new emperor. It’s merely because of the fact that Liang Zhen has authority in his grasp so nobody has the guts to speak up.
“Minister Zhang, they……”
Liang Zhen spoke with apathy: “The crime they committed will implicate the next nine generations of their lineage. Your highness has shown mercy, in consideration of the merits they’ve committed in the past, and you thus only just exterminate their families without involving others.”
Zhu Yunxuan’s gaze dimmed slightly, Liang Zhen caught a glimpse as he curled up the corner of his lip: “Huh, is it that your highness is reluctant? And felt sympathetic by doing so?”
“What’s done is done.”
Liang Zhen semi-smiled: “It’s truly quite a pity, those elder officials are rare exceptional scholars, as well as the supporting pillars of the nation. But it’s merely that they are overly pedantic, and just so happens to get on your highness’s bad side. It’s a good thing that they’ve lost their integrity at the end of the day, but also implicated your highness when you first ascended to the throne. Without the trusted aides of those several officials, it seems that no one is available now.”
Zhu Yunxuan directed an apathetic glance towards Liang Zhen: “Wouldn’t that be exactly what you wished for.”
He indeed felt rather ashamed about it, although Zhang Nianling was overly pedantic and unconventional, he is nevertheless a true loyalist as well as the role model of all the literary officials under the heaven. If he had their support, he would appear to be less impotent and unlikely to be trampled by others. But it’s such a pity that he wasn’t chosen by Emperor Zhaoyang, and thus, Zhang Nianling’s loyalty naturally won’t belong to him. So for the sake of ascending to the throne, he could only stain his hands with fresh blood.
The smile in Liang Zhen’s eyes gradually became deeper: “Does your highness truly don’t place any trust in me? I risk going against the will of the people in order to help you ascend to the throne, but you turn your back on me in a blink of an eye and be on your guard with me all the time, suspecting that I have some ulterior motives. You’ve truly made me rather disappointed.”
Zhu Yunxuan did not wish to continue this argument, and indifferently spoke: “Then what about King Xian, did you also persuade him?”
“How could that be possible, perhaps your highness thought too highly of me. What sort of person is King Xian, and how do I have the ability to persuade him.” Liang Zhen smiled while shaking his head. There’s nothing more to it than the fact that others changed their views according to the circumstances, so there’s naturally no need to especially persuade him.
Zhu Yunxuan stare at the ashes from the fire basin that was blown away by a breeze from nowhere as his gaze deepens: “That jade seal…… you already knew that Zhu Yunqiong is the one he had on mind?”
Liang Zhen raised his eyebrows slightly: “What assumptions does your highness have?”
From beginning till end, his imperial father has never taken him into consideration, it’s him who has persisted until the end all along. Both he and his brother are merely steppingstones that Emperor Zhaoyang has left behind for others to use. How pathetic.