“Your Majesty… has passed away?”
Upon hearing this news, the entire court was shocked, and in an instant, the sound of crying broke through the sky. Everyone knelt down and kowtowed three times towards the direction of the Emperor’s bedroom, showing their farewell as monarchs and subjects, fathers and sons, and relatives.
The mourning bells in the palace rang, echoing three times.
Shen Fengyue, who had learned the appearance of a palace concubine, held a handkerchief to wipe away his tears, crying uncontrollably.
After crying for a while, when the crying subsided, someone stepped forward and spoke, “The late Emperor has passed away, and we are all deeply saddened. However, what is most important now is the matter of the heir. The late Emperor passed away suddenly without leaving any decree. Since ancient times, the heir should follow the system of the eldest son of the main wife. Now that the Crown Prince has also passed away, it should be the Seventh Prince’s turn. I propose to welcome back the Seventh Prince to ascend the throne and control the situation.”
Shen Fengyue paused his movement of wiping away his tears and followed the sound of the voice. He saw that the speaker was Wei Yunping.
Although the Wei family’s influence had declined due to several reprimands from the Emperor, Wei Yunping had stood in the court for decades, and his power was deeply rooted. It was still difficult to shake him off in a short period.
Many scholars surrounded him, seemingly the leader among the civil officials. He spoke righteously but was facing Shen Fengyue’s direction.
Shen Fengyue’s eyelids twitched. This old man was up to no good. The Seventh Prince also came from his Wei family, so of course, he wanted the Seventh Prince to ascend the throne.
“The imperial edict has arrived–”
The others quickly knelt and obeyed, only the Wei family group led by Wei Yunping stood still. Eunuch Shen held the bright yellow imperial edict in his hands and walked out of the palace. He glanced at the Wei family group, who did not kneel or say much, opened the imperial edict, and read it out what was written:
“By the grace of Heaven, the Emperor decrees:
From ancient times, emperors have succeeded to the throne and established their authority over the world, always creating a crown prince and ensuring the prosperity of their country, in order to continue the lineage and ensure peace and prosperity for generations to come. I, as the current emperor, have inherited this great responsibility and carry it with utmost care day and night. I look up to my ancestors who have set an admirable example and entrust this important duty to my descendants. May they carry on this noble tradition and bring prosperity to the realm.
Although my firstborn son passed away early, I am deeply grieved, but I cannot go against the will of heaven. My other son, Chu Xi, is gifted and outstanding, and his conduct is in accordance with the rites and customs.
I hereby proclaim to the heavens, the earth, the ancestral temple, and the state, that on the 13th of March in the 57th year of the reign, I have granted him the imperial decree and appointed him as the Crown Prince, to take his rightful place in the Eastern Palace and bear the great responsibility of ruling for thousands of years and winning the hearts of the people.
This decree is to be obeyed.”
After finishing reading, there was silence in the hall. Wei Yunping’s face was grim.
Eunuch Shen closed the decree with his left hand and looked at Wei Yunping, saying, “Prime Minister, why didn’t you kneel when receiving the decree? Are you trying to go against the will of the Emperor?”
His words were spoken heavily and echoed through the room.
Wei Yunping lifted his eyelids calmly and said, “When the late Emperor was dying, he only summoned Imperial Concubine Yan. We haven’t even seen the late Emperor once. There were only the two of you in the hall. How could we know whether this decree is true or false?”
“Do you not trust the Imperial concubine, and me?” Eunuch Shen asked.
Wei Yunping did not answer but looked at him calmly.
The atmosphere became tense, even the sobbing sounds someone had pretended to make earlier ceased.
Eunuch Shen did not care and continued to confront Wei Yunping.
He was waiting for the right moment.
After what felt like a stick of incense burning, the sound of footsteps approached the hall. Everyone turned to look and saw the orderly arrival of the Imperial guards in armor, armed with swords, surrounding everyone in the hall.
Everyone was startled by the grand scene and dared not speak. The leader of the Imperial Guards stepped forward and bowed, saying, “As the leader of the Imperial Guards, I am here on behalf of the late Emperor. Anyone who opposes his orders—”
“Kill them without mercy!”
As soon as he finished speaking, all the Imperial Guards drew their swords, and the sound of cold weapons being unsheathed and rubbed together made people’s hair stand on end.
The leader looked at Eunuch Shen, “Eunuch Shen, are there any who oppose the Emperor’s orders?”
Eunuch Shen scanned the crowd and singled out the Wei family, who were the only ones standing out in the crowd. When he looked at them, their faces were filled with disbelief, and Wei Yunping’s was particularly gloomy.
The leader naturally noticed the Wei family, who stood out from the crowd with his sharp eyes, but he still asked knowingly.
In other words, he did it on purpose, and he had long been unhappy with those stinky old men.
Eunuch Shen explained for them, “The late Emperor knew that his time was up and made arrangements for the future. He sent the Imperial Guards to maintain order in case anyone disobeyed his orders and went against the Emperor. This was also to ensure the safety of the new Emperor.”
Wei Yunping was slightly stunned, not expecting to be played by Emperor Chu at the last minute.
Shen Fengyue turned his head slightly and curled his lips. Yes, Emperor Chu and Wei Yunping were birds of a feather, a nest of snakes and rats. After many years, how could he not know what kind of person Wei Yunping was? That’s why he sent the army as a precaution.
So Wei Yunping was played.
However, the praying mantis stalks the cicada, unaware of the oriole behind. Emperor Chu would not have the last laugh, as everything he did was to help others marry. 1The phrase “help others marry” is an idiomatic expression that means to inadvertently or unknowingly help someone else achieve their goals or succeed at something, often at the expense of one’s own interests or without realizing the potential consequences.
Shen Fengyue’s gaze pierced through the obstructing buildings, unaware of what the late Emperor Chu, who had already passed away in his bed, would have thought if he saw this scene.
“So, is there anyone who wants to defy the imperial edict?” Eunuch Shen asked loudly, pulling Shen Fengyue’s thoughts back to reality.
Some of the people in the Wei family group exchanged glances and then kneeled down respectfully, pressing their heads against their clasped hands.
“We dare not.”
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- 1The phrase “help others marry” is an idiomatic expression that means to inadvertently or unknowingly help someone else achieve their goals or succeed at something, often at the expense of one’s own interests or without realizing the potential consequences.