(Due to the length of the chapter, I had to divide to two parts. And here’s the first part.)
After driving Yong Lin away, Yong Shan turned around and went inside.
Yong Qi, thinking he was unable to escape this time yet again, had no choice but to stand in place and wait for his misfortune befall on him. Even though Yong Shan looked completely harmless to other humans and animals, to this brother, who had been filled with too much “bullying”, his breath quickly became unstable.
Yong Shan looked at him in amusement and found that the fingers which were grabbing the corner of his clothes were so seductive that even Yong Qi himself would not know. In an instant, Yong Shan felt that this person, who’s shy and trembling in fear in front of him shouldn’t be his brother.
If possible, he really would rather this person be his Imperial Concubine.
At least when he embraced his concubine, his concubine would never cry.
He wanted to hug him, kiss him, put those beautiful fingers into his mouth one by one, and suck until it was red. It was best to suck every part of his body until it turns red forever, branded with the color of Yong Shan.
Yong Shan was grateful that Yong Qi didn’t know what thoughts were turning in his mind. If he knew, he would have avoided him every day.
“What do you want to write?” Seeing Yong Shan standing there staring at him for a while under his intense gaze, Yong Qi couldn’t help but ask.
Yong Shan’s gaze was substantive, as if a pair of hands peeling him layer by layer, biting all the way to his bones. As Yong Qi asked, he pretended to move his steps and stopped in front of the Huanghuali wooden cabinet, and took out the brush, ink, paper and ink stone. After all, this was the place where he had lived in the past, and he roughly remembered where all these things were.
Moreover, it seemed that Yong Shan, the new owner, had not changed this palace much even though this place now belonged to him.
“What should I write?” Yong Shan quietly approached from behind while Yong Qi was grinding ink.
Both of them knew that this focus of grinding ink came out of pretense and was completely vulnerable. Their distance shortened a little, and only a bit of air was slowly squeezed out from between the two of them. Yong Qi noticed the itching on his back, which seemed to be different from the feeling pierced by Yong Shan’s eyes at the beginning. After a while, he heard Yong Shan laugh in a low voice from behind, “Guess what the word is?”
He wrote stroke by stroke on Yong Qi’s back with his fingertips. The writing was fast and scribbled. After finishing writing, he randomly continued to make a few circles on his back, as if he did not intend to stop at all, waiting for Yong Qi to guess his riddle.
But Yong Qi was silent, lowering his head and grinding his ink, as if he didn’t want to play this boring game with him at all.
“I’ll write it again.” Yong Shan wrote on his back again with ease.
“Did you guess it?”
Once his lips stuck to the back of Yong Qi’s earlobe, Yong Qi knew he had to play with him.
In fact, it was not difficult to guess.
“The couple from not alone but in pairs.”
“Wrong,” Yong Shan corrected softly, “It’s a couple of good matches as if made in heaven, my brother Yong Qi.”
Yong Qi’s hand suddenly slipped, and a few drops of ink splashed on the table. He shrugged, as if wanting to look back, but was stopped by Yong Shan with a hand on his back.
“Don’t look back.” Yong Shan stopped him, putting his hands on Yong Qi’s back. “Do not look back.”
His voice was so low that he didn’t sound like a supreme master of this huge palace. He was being careful with his voice as if he was afraid of breaking something before he could look forward to it the next time.
He slowly leaned up, put his hands around Yong Qi’s neck, and hugged Yong Qi like a child.
He always felt that he had known better, became mature and sensible faster than any other brothers, but now, he really wanted to be just a child.
Only children did not have to be responsible for their mistakes.
No one would always remember a child’s mistakes and would never forgive them afterwards.
But he had grown up, big enough to be one who would take up the heavy responsibility of the world, and could dispose of a life at will.
He was sixteen years old and he was no longer regarded as a child who could be forgiven.
“Write a word for me.” Yong Shan said, slowly loosening the hand that encircled Yong Qi.
Yong Qi asked in a low voice, “What character?”
“It’s up to you. After you write it, put it on the table, and wait for me to come back. If I come back late, you can tell Chang Defu to prepare lunch for you. You are allowed to walk around at will, as long as you don’t leave the main hall gate.”
After listening to his instructions, Yong Qi did not move. After a long while he turned around.
But Yong Shan had already left.
The door of the side hall was half open, and he was left alone in the empty room. The emptiness made people feel uneasy and lonely.
Yong Qi sighed and walked to the door, planning to close the wooden door thinking he really did not know what to write for Yong Shan.
Suddenly, a figure stooped silently from outside the door, like a ghost, and frightened Yong Qi to back away two steps.
“Your Highness Yong Qi, I am here to deliver a message to Your Highness by the order of Li Fei Niangniang.”
Yong Qi calmed down, staring at the person in front of him. After looking back to see if there was anyone peeping outside the window, he turned his head and said slowly, “I don’t know what you said.”
“It doesn’t matter if Your Highness doesn’t know what I said. What’s important is, is Your Highness aware of what the Second Prince Yong Shan intends to do right now?”
Yong Qi was silent for a while before saying, “How would I know?”
“Your Highness,” the man looked around, took a step closer, and asked in a low voice, “Has Your Highness ever heard of the name Gong Wuhui?”
Yong Shan indeed went to see Gong Wuhui.
The prison was heavily guarded and difficult to enter in the eyes of outsiders. However, in the eyes of an imposing prince, going in for a round of inspection was just a matter of one sentence.
The warm sedan stopped outside the prison. As soon as an attendant reported Yong Shan’s name, the prison officer in charge of the prison immediately hurried out to greet him, accompanied by a smiling face to welcome Yong Shan. On one hand, he shouted his order at someone to light the candle in the cell to get some moisture, on the other hand, he ordered someone to bring the prisoner out.
Yong Shan smiled and waved his hand, “No need, I’m not here for the trial. I just want to take a look at the person. Father Emperor had instructed before that I should not stay in the palace all the time to read the memorials, but should also go around in person and visit more places. I just happened to pass by here today, so I want to come in and have a look.”
“Your Highness is really diligent about the council matters and understands the situations. On such a cold day, coming here personally to inspect the Imperial Prison. Alas, your Highness, be careful. It’s wet here, be careful of the cold…”
Yong Shan listened to his babble, carefully and diligently, without saying anything. He held his hand down, proceeding with a slow pace inside the prison. His leg injury had not yet healed, and he still felt pain when walking. However, being someone with a strong will as himself, he would not allow others to sympathize or pity him. He even hated being supported by someone, so even if he tried to walk slowly, no one could tell something was wrong either.
He went in from the vestibule for storing documents and handing over official affairs. After walking past a straight blue brick road, it was where the prisoners were officially detained. When he got there, there were more iron-bolted wooden gates, one after the other, and each gate was guarded by a guard.
Further in from the middle tunnel, on the left and right were small cells. Some were empty, and some confined prisoners whose hands and feet were locked with shackles. The expressions of the prisoners were different. Some of them, seeing someone coming, they would stare straight, with a hint of hatred. Some just sat on the haystack with blank eyes.
Yong Shan looked at them for a while and boasted, “Although it is a bit humid here, it’s still clean. You manage this place well.”
The prison officer received a compliment from him, and his face almost bloomed with a smile, “This lowly official only knows how to devote to his work, and does not dare seek credit. Your Highness is the one who handles big things. Although this lowly official is a small official, he often hears the ministers praise Your Highness, saying that although Your Highness is young, he is smart and hardworking…”
Yong Shan listened to his non-committal and kept silent, still pacing forward slowly. After a while, he seemed to think of something unconsciously, and asked, “Just a while back, there was an official who slandered the Royal family and was imprisoned by Father Emperor. Is he still being locked up now?”
“The Imperial Censor? Oh! Your Highness must have meant Gong Wuhui. He’s still locked up. Your Highness, please go this way here.”
The prison officer led Yong Shan to Gong Wuhui’s prison cell.
Glancing at the prison cell, Yong Shan couldn’t help but twitch his lips. “You really know how to be humble and inferior. There are many other prisoners detained in the same cell here, but why is this person alone receiving such special treatment?”
“This lowly official dare not!” Afraid he might have misunderstood him, the prisoner officer explained in a panic, “This Gong Wuhui dare talk nonsense and be reckless. Therefore the Emperor ordered him to reflect on himself in the jail, and also to write down his repentance and submit it to the imperial court. Because he has to write a statement of repentance, I have to specially arrange a separate room with paper and ink. It is really not about government favoritism.”
Yong Shan listened, his lips formed a form of unpredictable smile. Then he raised his chin to the prisoner’s door, “Open the door.”
Although he was smiling, there was no smile in his eyes. His eyes which were transparent and gave off the feeling of icy cold made the person who peeked at his face tremble.
The prison officer did not dare to say anything again. He immediately took out the key and personally opened the prison door, letting Yong Shan enter. The officer, with his head held low, was going to follow behind his back, but suddenly heard the light and fluttering sentence “You all go out” in front of him, and immediately dared not to follow anymore. He wisely retreated and waited obediently outside the prison door.
Inside the Imperial Prison, this separate cell which was equipped with pen and ink was different from a normal cell. Not only was it clean and had a bed, but the door was also thick and solid, making the room like an independent space, and able to avoid the dilemma of being peeped from time to time from the outside world.
Originally, this special measure was the considerations of the previous emperors bestowed upon them. The situation in the court was changing, the more complicated it became, the more often unjust cases rosen. In this kind of small cell, the detained ministers could write top secret memorials, in order to get rid of the injustice and not have to worry about the writing falling into the eyes of ordinary prisoners. Of course, it was also convenient for secret interrogation directly in the cell to prevent secret leakage.
Yong Shan entered as his gaze sweeping away everything in the cell. White surfaces of the walls facing from three directions, one thick door with thick bluestone slabs above, enclosed this small space completely. The only connection with the outside world was that a small window opens at the top of the wall, faintly infiltrating a little daylight, only the size of a palm. There was a bed in the room with neatly folded quilts, and a simple case lying in front of the bed with pen, ink, paper and inkstone, which was also neat and diligent.
The man sitting in front of the case was probably forty-five or six. He was lowering his head and meditating. Hearing the sound, he raised his head. Seeing that it was Yong Shan, he was slightly startled, but soon calmed down and moved his slightly numb leg to salute Yong Shan, “Chen, Gong Wuhui pays respect to Your Royal Highness.”
(TN: I, your servant. Used in addressing the monarch.)
Yong Shan glanced at him coldly. He didn’t forgo his salute and said, “You still dare call yourself a Minister. As a Minister, you know you should respect the Emperor. And yet how could you speak boldly and slander the Imperial family? The Fifth prince, Yong Sheng, is my younger brother who grew up in the harem; a child who doesn’t understand anything is not offensive to you. Handling the memorials one by one, do you have to involve the treason and rebellion on him?”
Yong Shan asked coldly as soon as he came in. If those words were said to ordinary people, they would be shocked mindlessly. However, Gong Wuhui’s face remained as usual. He tilted his head and listened carefully to Yong Shan finish his words. After being silent for a while, he sat back in the same position as before, faintly showing an indifferent smile, “As soon as this case came out, I knew I couldn’t get out alive. I just couldn’t imagine that the Fifth Prince is so powerful and could pull Your Highness in as well. He, just a lowly Imperial Censor, whose life is worthless, why bother to come in person? Your Highness, please take a look.” He stretched his hand into his arms, touched something out, and put it on the case, “I have prepared the medicine. There’s no need for you to do anything. Once I drink this medicine, everything will be over.”
(T/N: He, a low laugh, snicker.)
It was a small long-necked white porcelain medicine bottle with a cork on it, and a red thread tied around the neck. It was unknown how Gong Wuhui got it in this prison.
Yong Shan stared at the medicine bottle, stunned.
This Gong Wuhui was not high-ranked in the Court. As a prince, Yong Shan was not allowed to have personal relations with the ministers at will according to Yandi’s rules. Therefore, although he had heard of this person’s reputation, he had never had the opportunity to look closely at it.
(T/N: Yandi, Emperor of Yan.)
At first glance, he was not anything ordinary.
Seeing Yong Shan did not say a word, Gong Wuhui sighed, “This lowly official had been in the Court for nearly twenty years, by nature, because I am curious and like to read the record of the Ministry of Justice, I have seen a lot of unjust cases in the past. I have already guessed what your Highness’s intentions are, and there is also no need for Your Highness to say anything. Gong Wuhui will obey your orders.”
Yong Shan, who had always been strong and cold among his brothers, was, after all, only sixteen years old. When he thought that he was going to kill a living Yushi in front of him, the palms of his hands became faintly cold.
(T/N: Yushi, Imperial Censor.)
He stood silent for a while, and when he found his words again, his voice was a little dry, “You are suspicious, I don’t want you to die.”
“I know.” Gong Wuhui didn’t call himself “Chen” anymore. After taking a look at Yong Shan, he sighed in a considerate manner, “You may not be familiar with me, but I am very familiar with Your Highness. Your Highness is cold outside but warm inside, has a firm and strong personality, dislikes bad people and corrupt things. Not only can you distinguish between right and wrong, but also understands how to pretend politeness and compliance. If you intervene in this matter today, Your Highness will have to suffer.” Then he reached out for a pose, “Your Highness, please sit down.”
(T/N: pretend to agree with others and deal with it in a perfectionry manner.)
His fearless attitude toward life and death, his calm talk, and his comments on Yong Shan’s dispositions, all in all surprised Yong Shan on the spot. Yong Shan sat down facing Gong Wuhui across the case. He was secretly surprised in his heart. This person had been in the court for nearly 20 years, but he was still just an Imperial Censor. How could his Father Emperor be so ignorant of his own people?
Unexpectedly, Gong Wuhui continued to give him surprises.
Sitting down and talking, Gong Wuhui first started with a startling statement, “Although I am only a mere censor, I was secretly ordered by the Emperor ten years ago to observe the characters of the princes. Therefore, not only Your Highness, but also the other princes. I know everything.”
Although this was unexpected, it also made perfect sense.
Otherwise, how could Gong Wuhui be so familiar with Yong Shan who grew up in the Palace? Most of the people in the Imperial Palace had the status of relatives. Even if they were not relatives, they would still have an interesting relationship. If he wanted to observe the princes impartially, Emperor Yan would have cast aside his loyal ministers and chosen a low-key trusted minister instead to observe wisely.
“In the winter of the Year 19th of Qingzong, the Emperor called me into the Palace secretly, hoping to confer a title to the 2nd Prince in the spring of the following year. I was shocked when I heard it, and desperately said that this matter is definitely not feasible.”
Yong Shan was shocked.
The 2nd in what Gong Wuhui said was without a doubt, Yong Shan himself. It turned out that the first person that the Emperor wanted to confer a title was himself, but he was desperately blocked by this person. In the spring of the 20th year of Qingzong, he was about to be granted a title, but the person who got the title was Yong Qi.
In Gong Wuhui’s eyes, Yong Qi was more qualified to inherit the country and benefit the people?
Gong Wuhui smiled and said, “His Highness Yong Qi was born less than a month earlier. Regardless of competence and potential, his body is weak and often suffers from illnesses. With this alone, it is difficult to form a formal election. To be an emperor, he has to manage everything. How could he do without a good body?”
The prisoner in the jail spoke in a casual and elegant manner. His every word was astonishing. After Yong Shan listened to it, he was puzzled for a while. He frowned, pondered carefully about the cause and effect. When he thought back to the past, his heart hurt severely, and a sense of ominousness was born. His eyes became sharp as he looked at Gong Wuhui, repented.
Gong Wugui laughed, seemingly pleased, “Your Highness is really smart, I have not seen the wrong person.”