As the horizon gradually brightens, flags flutter upon the Gate of Tribute, covering the sky all over.
When the first glimmer of daylight descended, Zhu Yunxuan was already cloaked in his ceremonial garment, strolling step by step towards the gateway to perform the rite of ascension under the continuous clamor of bells and drums.
On the main street of the imperial gateway, countless officials were split into two fractions while kowtowing with their knees bent.
At this moment, the newly crowned emperor entered the Gateway of Tribute to inherit the throne, and the imperial officials of different classes were divided up into groups to pay their respect successively. The Minister of Rites, Yan Shixue, took the imperial edict of enthronement and passes it onward to the chief eunuch Gao’an, who then recited it out in a loud voice: “This one bears the will of the late emperor by relying on the blessings of holy beings. In accordance with the imperial edict of the deceased emperor, and the order of sequence in the enshrine family bloodline……”
The vivid speech echoed in the palace for quite awhile, by the time the last word faded away, bells and drums rang out once again as all the officials knelt down to kowtow.
Zhu Yunxuan sat lofty upon the imperial throne, his line of sight gradually swept through each individual below, and settling onto Liang Zhen who knelt amidst the military officers.
Liang Zhen seemed to sense something as he abruptly raised his eyes and slightly smiled towards Zhu Yunxuan’s line of sight, yet Zhu Yunxuan’s expression was indistinguishable behind the twelve tassels hanging from his headpiece.
[T/N: This head accessory is apparently wore by individuals with high status during rites and ceremonies ]
A new emperor has ascended to the throne, signifying the first month establishment of the new era, Jing Rui.
The removal of mourning garments will be on the 27th as the coffin of the late emperor was transported into another palace. By the time everything has settled in and the coffin has been carried to the burial ground on the 49th, it should be the arrival of spring during the first year of the new Jing Rui era.
On the day when Zhu Yunxuan’s letter arrived, there was a chill in the spring air of the imperial city. When Gao’an stretched out both of his hands to offer the letter, Zhu Yunxuan, who was in the process of reviewing the memorials, shifted slightly. He then halted the matters in his own hands to receive it.
Zhu Yunjing is Zhu Yunxuan’s blood related brother born out of the same parents, as well as the former crowned prince who was abolished due to cases of voodooism in the East Palace and was later sentenced to execution. He later escaped after feigning death with the help of General Dingyuan, He Huailing, and has been staying at the Northwest Continent for the past four years. After Zhu Yunxuan ascended to the throne, this is the first ever letter that he has sent to him.
[T/N: For those of you who don’t know, He Huailing is the ML featured in Bai Jieji’s other novel 皇恩浩荡 and shares the same universe as 江山许你]
Zhu Yunjin repeatedly advised him about a lot of things with apprehension and even worryingly inquired as to why Liang Zhen would be so willingly to assist him. Yet from beginning till the end, he used the title of “Your Highness” as all the others do, instead of the familiar address “Ah-Xuan” from the past which he no longer used. Zhu Yunxuan stared at the letter in his hand for a long period of time while remaining silent.
Gao’an swapt his cup for hot tea, and inquired with a whisper after seeing that he was staying motionless and had an expression of dejectedness: “Your Highness, after the arrival of His Excellency’s letter…… for what reason are you still in such low spirits?”
Zhu Yunxuan had a touch of self-mockery in his watery-moisted eyes, and he whispered after putting down the letter: “It’s no wonder that our predecessors said that it’s desolated at the very apex. From today forth, this solitary one will truly become a loner.
Zhu Yunxuan closed his eyes: “Forget it, since this solitary one has chosen this route, I can’t afford to blame others.”
The carriage came to a halt outside the estate’s entrance, and Liang Zhen went in with leisure strides. Within the foyer, all the elders of the Liang clan, including Nobleman AnLe were present with tensed expressions. The old madame in the lead coldly spoke up: “You truly have quite a lot of guts, only willing to return this one time after numerous invitations, keeping this old madame as well as the seniors in your family all waiting.”
Liang Zhen remained unmoving and said nonchalantly: “Why must you put it that way, grandma. After the demise of the former emperor, as well as the ascension of the new emperor, there are a lot of matters within the palace that I don’t have spare time to deal with. I must prioritize my work above everything else after all.”
“What sort of business do you even have?” Nobleman AnLe, Liang Feng, stared at him with gloominess and scolded him angrily, “You are unwilling to properly take up the prince regent position, and resolutely decided to assist King Rui in seizing the ninth prince’s throne. Are you out of your mind?”
[T/N: The official imperial title in which Zhu Yunxuan is referred to as]
As soon as his voice faded away, a delicate lady dressed in luxurious robe from the side rushed up to question Liang Zhen: “Explain to me by what means has our Xin’er died? Why would she choose to be buried alive with the dead? You must be the one who coerced her into doing so right? Right?!
[T/N: The Xin’er in question is Imperial Consort Chen who died back in Ch6 ]
Just as the other party was about to grasp his outer garment, Liang Zhen nonchalantly took a step backwards as the sword in the bodyguard’s hand beside him left its scabbard. That woman was frightened into shrieking, and was shakily supported back up by a servant. The old madame in the lead became exceedingly infuriated after witnessing this and harshly questioned Liang Zhen: “What exactly are you planning to do?! Are you intending to raise a hand against your family with those people that you’ve brought in?”
Liang Feng also berated him with anger: “You rascal! Don’t you forget that you are still my son in name!”
Liang Zhen indifferently scanned at the sullen people around the room and spoke up with disdain: “Grandma, father, you did say that the reason you invited me over was for some domestic affairs, yet now we are continuously prating about matters of the deceased, and even going as far as to question His Majesty. Aren’t you afraid that this will bring a great calamity upon the entire Liang Clan once the word gets out?”
Liang Feng is angered to the point where his eyes were about to bulge out and he merely despised the fact that he couldn’t enforce domestic discipline onto this unfilial son of his. Liang Zhen stared at his entire family without any warmth present in his eyes, and suppressed his impatience prior to giving that lady who is still endlessly sobbing a reminder: “Third Aunty, Imperial Consort Chen was the one who requested to be buried alive with the dead herself, and this is on account of her profound devotion to the former emperor. That is naturally a good thing, and you ought to feel honored instead, so save your comments to yourself, lest disaster emanates from your careless words.
Then he turned towards Liang Feng: “Father, there are matters that both you and I know well, so there’s no need to make your stance so clear. Since we are father and son by name, I won’t cause an open break in our relationship. It’s just that from today onwards, you people better stop making indiscreet remarks on my affairs, Or else…… Don’t blame me for being ruthless.”
“Unfaithful rascal! The Liang family has brought you up for twenty years at any rate, you……”
Liang Zhen interrupted him impolitely: “Father, I am sure that you clearly know the reason why the Liang family has raised me. Otherwise, how can I, an illegitimate son ignorantly given to birth by a concubine of the Liang clan enter the gate of your family? You’ve already brought ruin to my birth father, don’t you ever think about bringing me down!”
“You…… What nonsense are you sprouting?! We tirelessly brought you up on the contrary, didn’t we?!”
“Is that so?” Liang Zhen repeatedly murmured in a soft voice, as his eyes were filled to the brim with contempt and indifference.
Liang Feng was flabbergasted for a second the moment he met this gaze, and his momentum was involuntary weakened by a few degrees, even his words held less confidence when he spoke up: “That’s naturally the truth…… You’re revolting and rebellious, surely you don’t have any logical reasoning right?”
The Xie Clan held a great deal of influence in the past, and Empress Xie’s father was the chief assistant of the former dynasty, so the crowned prince was deeply favored by the emperor. Not only do the members of the Liang Clan intend to have this “prince” , which is himself, to prosper in his official career, but they are also afraid of being targeted by the Xie clan. From the beginning till the end, this whole entire family merely wished to exchange him for the sake of gaining larger profits. They could only deceive a three-year-old child by making it sound that pleasant.
The old madame was torn by grief as she rebuked: “You are truly ungrateful, after being the prince of the AnLe Estate for so many years, has any of us ever treated you unfairly? So how can you be like this, how can you be like this ah!”
“Why must you pressure me into revealing these dirty affairs, grandma?” Liang Zhen’s gaze was chilled down to an additional few degrees, as he took a step forward.
Facing his sinister eyes, the old madame’s gaze flickered as she suddenly lost her voice and stepped away in a guilty manner.
Liang Zhen stopped paying any heed to her, and glanced towards a woman who wore an expression of indifference beside Liang Feng: “Nobody knows what sort of life I, this prince, am living in this family better than you do, mother. So there’s no need to ask me about it.”
The woman had an unpleasant expression on her face and did not look towards him, yet the guilt in her eyes cannot be concealed.
Liang Zhen smiled, deciding that he does not intend to have further entanglements with this family, he calmly reminded everyone in the room with a deep voice: “Don’t any of you ever attempt to manipulate me again, I am able to abandon the surname Liang at will. The present isn’t the same as the past anymore, I suggest you all better make peace with this reality as soon as possible.”
After exiting out of the estate and settling down in the carriage, a young lad from outside asked him whether he wished to return to his residence or the palace. Liang Zhen wearily closed his eyelids and ordered: “To the outskirts of the city.”
The Yuanji Temple located in the southern suburb was constructed during the previous dynasty with a history of five hundred years, and it has always been an imperial temple full of worshipers.
Liang Zhen’s carriage came to a halt at the temple’s side entrance on the rear end of the mountain. A little monk welcomed him in, and guided him into the back palace where ordinary visitors were prohibited to go any further.
Within the tranquil palace, Liang Zhen personally poured sesame oil into the two altar lamps which have been burning day in and day out for the last twenty years, as the flaring glow of the fire reflected on his deep pupils.
A gentle faced old abbot came in through the door, and Liang Zhen came forth to pay his respects.
“Take a seat.”
Sitting on a cushion, the old abbot began to chant Buddhist Scriptures as usual with his deep voice resonating in the palace. Liang Zhen listened in silence and gently fiddled with the buddha beads on his wrist. His restless state of mind gradually simmered down.
After the sky darkens, the old abbot stopped reciting his scriptures and slowly opened his eyelids, sighing softly as he looked at Liang Zhen who was in front of him: “Over all these years, this old abbot has countless regrets for not allowing you to remain here.”
It’s better off staying in the temple and endure through a difficult life rather than to undergo torment in the territory of the estate. His mother in name assumed that he was the one who had robbed of her biological son’s life, so even though the Liang clan considers him as a royalty, Liang Zhen has never lived a single day in peace before the age of seventeen, since that woman has used various shady methods to torture him in private. And so it’s not easy for him to grow up safely.
Liang Zhen smiled bitterly: “If I have remained within this temple, there won’t be a King Zhao today who has the capability of overturning the court.
“Mister Liang doesn’t necessarily wish to see you in this state.”
Liang Zhen closed his eyes: “My father… Does he truly not bear a grudge? AnLe Estate handed him over to the emperor for the sake of a bright future, and brutally separated him from my dad. Does he truly not bear a single grudge at all?”
The old abbot softly spoke up: “What’s the use of bearing a grudge, and when will such retribution come to an end.”
“That bastard emperor has already met his demise, so the AnLe estate has no future ahead of them and will sooner or later become corrupted, Mister Xie……”
“It’s all due to your support that the descendant of Empress Xie became the new emperor of the current dynasty, but why must you insist on doing as such? The sin lies in Empress Xie’s elder brother, and it’s not the empress herself. At that time she genuinely wanted to release your father, but it was Minister Xie who made the decision without any consent and forced him to a dead end. When Empress Xie was still alive, she had always felt ashamed about this matter, and repented her sins to the buddha countless times, assuming that it was her who brought harm onto your father as well as that child. She is a genuinely benevolent individual, if Benefactor Liang wished to settle scores, it’s best to not involve her descendant. The bygone past has come to a conclusion, there’s no need to keep on persisting, you are merely torturing yourself.”
Liang Zhen was slightly stunned: “Since I’ve already assisted him in ascending to the throne, why would I want to settle accounts with him? He is merely the one who is unwilling to have any trust in me.”
“The weight behind the word trust is tantamount to a thousand pieces of gold, and it is by no means a simple matter. You don’t bear any trust towards him either.”
Liang Zhen sighed: “……Both of us are the same, bounded by helplessness and are unable to easily have trust in others.”
The old abbot went silent, and after a while had passed, he closed his eyelids and began reciting the scripture once again.