GNU last sponsored chapter by Emma at ko-fi. Sorry it took so long and thank you for your support!
The death of an empress dowager was not a trivial matter. Cheng Yujin quickly changed into mourning clothes and departed to the Cining Palace.
The palace was already full of cries when Cheng Yujin came. Seeing her arrival, the maids and eunuchs panicked and knelt in greetings, “Greetings to the Crown Princess.”
Cheng Yujin responded with a nod and walked into the palace with a heavy face. After entering the inner hall, she promptly went to the bedchamber. There lay Empress Dowager Yang, still on the sickbed she used until her last moment, surrounded by people kneeling on the floor, weeping. Cheng Yujin stopped in front of the bed, sniffed softly, and found that the incense had been changed.
Relieved, Cheng Yujin then went forward to check the Empress Dowager, still with a sad face. Upon feeling no breath left, she fell to her knees in tears.
It was at this time that the power changes in the palace were truly reflected. Empress Yang got the news later than Cheng Yujin, the Crown Princess. Empress Yang stumbled as she rushed in, but the moment she saw Empress Dowager Yang’s motionless body, she was instantly stunned. She stepped forward tremblingly, checking on Empress Dowager Yang’s breath, pupil, and temperature, but still refusing to believe it. When the imperial physician on the side announced in a low voice that Empress Dowager had indeed passed away, Empress Yang finally fell to the ground with a plop and started to cry loudly, as if struck by lightning.
This cry was not by all means pretty and was incredibly heart-rending. Anyone who heard it could tell that the crier was truly mourning without any deliberation whatsoever. After a while, the Emperor also arrived, accompanied by the Crown Prince. Seeing the body of Empress Dowager Yang, the Emperor sighed and said, “As a son, Zhen wants nothing else but to take care of my parents, but time waits for no one. Empress Dowager has passed away. Instruct the Ministry of Rites to prepare for the funeral ceremony.”
The funeral of Empress Dowager Yang was extremely solemn and grand. All the titled madams in the capital had to enter the palace to join the mourning. The most grief-stricken of all was Empress Yang. On the day of the burial, she was so overwhelmed with grief that she passed out crying in the mourning hall.
How could she not? With the passing of Empress Dowager Yang, the Emperor finally no longer had scruples. Just barely seven days after the funeral, the case of Empress Zhong’s murder finally reached a conclusion. Yang Fucheng’s wife was found guilty of murdering the previous empress and should be sentenced to public beheading. However, considering that she was the present empress’ biological mother, a special grace was given, and she was allowed to take a cup of poisoned wine.
Of course things didn’t stop with Madam Yang’s death. Senior Grand Secretary Yang failed to control his wife and neglected to discipline his grandson, causing them to commit unforgivable crimes. Citing these incidents as proof of his lack of personal virtue, Yang Fucheng was removed from his position in the cabinet. However, considering his long service and dedication to the country, he was allowed to keep his life and a part of his property. Still, his only son Yang Shilong was also removed from court, debased to the commoner rank, and was forbidden to serve as an official again.
Dou Xiyin was also implicated. She was deprived of Wangfei’s title and demoted to the commoner rank. Seeing the increasingly unfavorable situation, the Dou family quickly abandoned Yang Yan and hurriedly threw her back to the Yang family.
It had been a while after Empress Dowager Yang’s funeral, but Empress Yang was still despondent, as if losing all hope in life. The future was indeed very bleak for her. The Yang family collapsed overnight, her father and elder brother were demoted into commoners, most of their property was confiscated, and they had no hope of joining officialdom again. And her poor mother and aunt were dead, her elder sister was abandoned by her husband’s family, and her niece now had no title nor rank, worse than even the lowest concubine in the Shou Wang Manor.
When the tree fell, the birds flew away – the people who used to curry favor with the Yang family now shunned them one after another, and even Empress Yang herself was also facing the crisis of abolishment.
The Second Prince knelt in front of the Qianqing Palace, begging the Emperor to spare Empress Yang’s life on the basis that she had given birth and raised several children for the imperial family. The Emperor was furious and ordered the Second Prince to go back to his manor and reflected behind closed doors. The Second Prince admitted his mistakes, but stubbornly remained kneeling.
Like this, the Second Prince knelt in front of the Qianqing Palace, neither eating nor drinking, and even refusing the soft cushion that a eunuch secretly smuggled in. In the end, the Emperor softened. One’s child was different from a wife after all. When Empress Yang previously went to intercede for the Yang family, the Emperor didn’t even give her a single glance. Now that the one kneeling was replaced by the Second Prince, it didn’t take long for him to feel soft.
When the sun was the harshest in the middle of the day, the Emperor came out of the Qianqing Palace. Seeing his second son still kneeling under the sun, he sighed and ordered a eunuch to hold an umbrella for the Second Prince and help him up.
The Second Prince entered the palace with the Emperor and continued kneeling in the imperial study for a long time, interceding for Empress Yang. The Emperor didn’t make any promises. He simply waved his hand and ordered someone to escort the Second Prince back to his manor.
When Li Chengjun came out of the Qianqing Palace, he happened to meet Li Chengjing, who was on the way to the imperial study. The two met on the steps, one up and the other down. As they passed each other, Li Chengjun stopped and said to Li Chengjing, “Eldest Brother, you have achieved your revenge. The Yang family has been reduced to this point, and my mother is draining her tears every day. Do you still have to be so aggressive? Where it is possible to let people off, one should spare them. Or do you insist on pushing my mother to her death before you can feel satisfied?”
Li Chengjing stopped, turned sideways, and looked down at Li Chengjun, “I am being aggressive? You said I am the one who pushes others to their death?”
As if hearing some kind of joke, the corners of Li Chengjing’s lips slightly upturned, “However, it’s my mother whom they have killed. You, the proud son of heaven who was held in their palm since birth and enjoyed all the benefits your maternal family brought you throughout your life… do you think you are worthy to preach about forgiving others to me?”
Li Chengjun couldn’t find a single rebuttal. After a moment of silence, he took a step back and gave Li Chengjing a deep bow, so deep that his hand almost touched the steps: “Your Highness the Crown Prince, my eldest brother. My mother and maternal family are indeed sorry for you. I apologize on behalf of the elders. I understand your anger and hate, but please direct it to me, not my mother. I beg you to let her go.”
Li Chengjing simply ignored Li Chengjun’s plea. With an indifferent face that allowed others no chance to perceive his emotion, he continued to walk into the Qianqing Palace, located on the top of the high steps made from snow-white marble.
“Even injustice has preparators and collectors. What qualifications do you have to bear the sin on behalf of your mother? You are willing to suffer for the mother who gave birth to you, but the suffering my mother experienced can no longer be transferred to others.”
Li Chengjun raised his head in surprise. He watched in gaffe as Li Chengjing walked step by step towards the Qianqing Palace, which symbolized the highest power in the world. Li Chengjing’s steps were light and graceful, as if he would stop for no one. Unable to bear it any longer, Li Chengjun rushed two steps up and asked, “So, you still refuse to stop?”
Li Chengjing had already reached the last step. Standing on the high platform, he didn’t look back and simply said in a cold tone, “What I say will remain the same: right or wrong, let the law judges everything fairly.”
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