The horrible atrocity committed by Yang Xiaoyu immediately caused an uproar. The general public was angry, and even the court officials also couldn’t believe it when they heard about it. What Yang Xiaoyu did was not only tyrannical but also disregarded the law promulgated by the imperial authority. Needless to say, many officials were furious when they learned about the incident and hurriedly demanded that the Emperor deal severely with Yang Xiaoyu in order to set an example.
Yang Xiaoyu was the only grandson of the Yang family. How could Yang Fucheng be willing to hand him over to the Judicial Court? He didn’t even go through the motion by pretending to allow Yang Xiaoyu to be taken over by the authorities and instead proceeded to suppress the situation forcefully as he did last time. Unexpectedly, Yang Fucheng received a heavy backlash this time.
The voice of accusations against Yang Xiaoyu was overwhelming and soon went out of control. From the court officials to the common people, they all demanded that Yang Xiaoyu be handed over and dealt with according to the law.
The law for murder was clear — an eye for an eye. But what Yang Xiaoyu did was far more horrible and blatant contempt of the law, so just beheading him would be too light.
How could Yang Fucheng be willing? His wife cried at home and made a lot of noise, while his daughter-in-law wailed endlessly while hugging her beloved son, refusing to let him go. This incident soon spread into the inner palace, and when the still-bedridden Empress Dowager Yang learned about it, she slapped the desk in anger, “Presumptuous! Isn’t it a mere commoner who died? Just a group of pariahs — their lives are cheaper than a blade of grass. How dare they persecute Xiaoyu? That bastard dared to hurt Xiaoyu, so it is only right for him to make amends with his life!”
Empress Yang just happened to be in Cining Palace to serve by Empress Dowager’s sick bed. Seeing that Empress Dowager Yang was so angry and started to cough heavily, she hurriedly said in worry, “Empress Dowager, please calm yourself. Don’t get angry. I also feel the same way. Even if Xiaoyu was wrong for beating someone to death in public, this person attacked first, and Xiaoyu just counterattacked in self-defense. Xiaoyu isn’t in the wrong, except that he was a bit careless and accidentally killed the person. Shouldn’t it be enough to scold him a little and let him stay at home to reflect? How can those people demand he be handed over to the Judicial Court? I heard their prison is full of a negative and bloody aura. Xiaoyu is still young, and he is the only hope of our family’s three generations. What if something happened to him while he was in custody?!”
In fact, Empress Yang was also quite dissatisfied with Yang Xiaoyu, who made such a big incident and caused so much trouble because of a humble commoner girl. Even without Yang Xiaoyu’s scandal, the palace was not peaceful recently, and the Yang family was already put in a disadvantageous situation after the Crown Princess gave birth to dragon and phoenix twins. At such a critical time, what Yang Xiaoyu did was equal to stabbing his family.
Empress Yang couldn’t help but regret indulging her natal family so much. Precisely because she was always ready to take care of any problem that the Yang family had gotten high on themselves, and even someone like Yang Xiaoyu thought himself to be above the law.
But in the end, Empress Yang still didn’t dare to ignore Yang Xiaoyu. She was fond of the boy, sure, because she had watched him grow up as a small baby and even had personally taken care of him for a short while. But most important of all, Yang Xiaoyu was the only child of the Yang family, who for three generations only produced a single son. For this reason alone, Empress Yang had to protect Yang Xiaoyu at any cost, no matter how much this would put her at a disadvantage.
The day before yesterday, Yang Xiaoyu’s mother came to the palace to cry again. Empress Yang was already worried about Dou Xiyin’s affairs, but she couldn’t bear being begged and cried endlessly by her sister-in-law. In the end, Empress Yang endured exhaustion and went to the Emperor to ask him to intercede.
But when she arrived at Qianqing Palace, the eunuch in charge rejected her entry, claiming that the Emperor was discussing important matters with the court ministers and had no time now. Empress Yang waited outside for a long time, but the Emperor never sent her a word, let alone met her. Later, the Crown Prince came, and the same eunuch greeted him enthusiastically. With his back bent down in a flattering manner and without a single question, the eunuch quickly led the Crown Prince into the audience hall unimpeded.
The contrast was too big, not to mention everything that happened right before Empress Yang’s eyes. She was enraged, but also understood that this was the Emperor’s message: he didn’t want to intercede with Yang Xiaoyu’s matter.
Empress Yang felt a chill in her heart, but a flame of anger soon replaced the chill. The Emperor had he was today solely because of the support from the Yang family. Now that he had found his eldest son, he no longer cared about the life and death of the Yang family. Unwilling to swallow this grievance, Empress Yang ran to Empress Dowager, intent to let the latter call the shots on her behalf.
Empress Dowager Yang had been sick for months, so no one dared to inform her about the current problem in the Yang family. If not for the increasingly unfavorable situation that left her with no choice, Empress Yang also wouldn’t dare to let Empress Dowager know.
To Empress Yang’s surprise, Empress Dowager Yang not only turned furious when she learned about the news, but the emotions also took her so hard that she started coughing heavily and turned dizzy. Frightened, Empress Yang quickly supported Empress Dowager and persuaded, “Don’t worry, Your Majesty. Xiaoyu is still at home now. No matter how crazy those people are, they won’t dare to break into Yang’s manor to take Xiaoyu away.”
“See if they dare!” Empress Dowager Yang coughed so hard that her eyes turned red. Immediately afterward, she forced herself to get off the bed and shout hoarsely, “Call the emperor! Tell him that This Dowager wants to have a talk.”
When the person who called was the Empress Dowager, even an emperor couldn’t shirk. The sun was starting to set when the ministers finally dispersed. Seeing that the Emperor was preparing to go out, Li Chengjing’s brows furrowed slightly as he asked, “It’s getting dark, where is Your Majesty going?”
The Emperor sighed: “A messenger came from Cining Palace this afternoon. Zhen was so busy at the time and had no spare time to leave, but now that the memorial is almost finished, Zhen has to go to Empress Dowager’s palace to see her.”
Li Chengjing nodded in understanding: “Is it for Yang Xiaoyu’s business?”
The Emperor snorted coldly: “It must be. The Empress also came here yesterday, and Zhen deliberately hang her with the intention to teach them a lesson. Unexpectedly, she didn’t learn anything and even went to involve Empress Dowager. Hmph, taking a yard after getting an inch — these people have increasingly forgotten their own status recently.”
Li Chengjing didn’t offer a reply nor did he make a comment. Was the Emperor referring to Empress Yang or Senior Grand Secretary Yang when he talked about ‘the people who have increasingly forgotten their own status’? Li Chengjing chose to stay silent, but the Emperor suddenly turned to him and asked, “Crown Prince, what do you think we should do?”
Li Chengjing responded calmly, “This son believes that a country cannot be governed without rules, and a precedent where a law is knowingly violated must never be established. If Your Majesty set this precedent, how will the subjects — the civil and military officials, and the common people below them — will behave in the future?”
Li Chengjing’s opinion struck the Emperor’s own thoughts and won his approval. The theory was perfect, but in practice, there was too much room for maneuvering behind. The Emperor wasn’t unaware of the secret back dealing that happened within the Judicial Court or the prison, but the Yang family refused to even go through the motion and firmly guarded Yang Xiaoyu at home, not even allowing him to be taken for the inquisition process. Their action was too arrogant.
The Emperor seemed to have made up his mind and promptly strode towards the Cining Palace. Li Chengjing stayed behind, lowering his head in reverence as he sent the Emperor off.
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