“Good evening, Your Ninth Highness.” The one who called out to him was a young man named Liang Shuhong. He was a member of the Liang family, born from a concubine and of the eldest lineage, Liang Yanbei’s cousin.1cousin: older male patrilineal cousin He was also Wen Chan’s sole companion and friend before Liang Yanbei came to the capital.
Liang Shuhong was a gentle person. He was talented, knowledgeable, and extremely polite to everyone. It’s just that he hated his cousin, Liang Yanbei. He had had once said to Wen Chan that Liang Yanbei was arrogant, hot-tempered, narrow-minded, tyrannical, and so on.
Now, after recalling those years, Wen Chan couldn’t help but feel it was funny.
His large eyes curved up. Unconsciously showing a gentle smile, Wen Chan asked, “Young Master Liang, are you here with your father today?”
“No, my father came early and went in first. I came with my cousin.” Liang Shuhong paused slightly after mentioning Liang Yanbei’s name, “Just now, I didn’t pay attention for a bit and got separated from him.”
“The imperial palace is extensive. There are many places where you should not go, so Young Master Liang should search for him carefully.” He raised his brows and thought for a while.
“Your Highness is right.” A look of annoyance floated over Liang Shuhong’s face again, “I hope he won’t cause any trouble.”
“Your Highness, it’s time for us to go in.” Ah Fu interrupted their conversation as he reminded Wen Chan in a low voice from behind.
Wen Chan heard what he said and gave a slight nod, “Then Young Master Liang should search for him then, bengong2I / this prince will go in first.”
Liang Shuhong bowed, “Take care, Your Highness.”
The Nanling Garden was very vast. There, a long table was set up to receive the court officials. The emperor’s seat was in the middle and placed facing the other seats. There were huge fireplaces on both sides to keep the place warm in such a bitterly cold climate.
The seating was organized according to their status. The imperial heirs, court officials, and the concubines of the harem were all divided according to their status.
Wen Chan with the ninth rank sat on the second row.
He was right on time. Just a short time after taking his seat, the emperor arrived. Following him was the empress and a group of concubines from the harem. A grand procession followed.
The officials who had been seated stood up in unison, bowing to the emperor who had sat on the throne, “All hail, the Emperor…”
“All the ministers may stand up .” The emperor was over fifty years now, but his body was still healthy. The usually serious-faced emperor held a slight smile today, “Wishing that my dear ministers drink to your heart’s content to welcome the New Year at tonight’s New Year’s banquet.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.” After thanking him in a grand chorus, the crowd sat back in their seats. The emperor’s presence there restrained many from being disorderly.
The seats to Wen Chan’s left and right were both empty. The emperor noticed this with just a glance and inquired about it. A eunuch waiting by the side answered, “The eighth princess was cold, so she had to leave the banquet earlier. The tenth highness will be delayed on the road for a while.”
The emperor then asked, “Are there any officials who are absent?”
“Prime Minister Zhong was not able to come as he has been ill for these two days, so his son Zhong Wenjin came alone.”
“It seems that the weather is indeed cold recently. Pass my order to send some medicine to Prime Minister Zhong so that he can focus on recuperating.” The emperor’s expression was calm, making it difficult for others to guess if he was happy or angry. Then he raised his voice to instruct indifferently, “Let the annual banquet begin.”
Actually, the palace doesn’t hold an annual banquet every year. It sometimes happens due to the emperor’s whim.
This year’s official reason was that the emperor conducted the annual banquet to bring people together to celebrate the New Year. But in reality, it was to welcome the member of the Liang family. In this banquet, Liang Yanbei wore a set of silver silk clothes and became the limelight of this event. He would carry out a majestic performance, conducting a grand performance with a flute. This way, he will be introduced to all of the young generations of the country.
After the banquet, Liang Yanbei’s father will be raised to the second rank as he will be given the position of the Minister of Rites. Everyone can see that the emperor was deliberately trying to get close to the Liang family by doing this.
The power of the Liang family was so deep-rooted in Xi Liang that they could even fight Prime Minister Zhong from outside the capital. Now that they have entered the capital and have also got the support of the emperor, they can even dominate Prime Minister Zhong.
Wen Chan had lived a life more than them, so he knew better than anyone else that the Emperor’s decision was the right thing to do. Without the Liang Family there, there would have been no Emperor Wen Chan and no Xi Liang that is prosperous and peaceful.
The initial period after the beginning of the feast was for the officials to enjoy dancing and singing. And then will be the time for gifting New Year gifts to the emperor. The emperor would then reward them back. The last segment was more sophisticated. It was a poetry relay.3The people at the banquet will recite poems building off the previous person on the spot.
Usually, only a few military officials attend the last segment of the banquet.
Ah Fu had already prepared the annual gift that Wen Chan wanted to offer. All that was left to do was waiting for his name to be called. But as time passed, he was bored to death. He propped his chin on his arms. Since the seats to his left and right were empty, he didn’t have anyone to chat with either.
After sitting there for a while, he found a girl sitting opposite of him with her back facing him. She was sitting with a group of maids. Wen Chan found out that it was precisely the maid who had a secret meeting with a man in the warm pavilion.
What a heavenly opportunity! Wen Chan was overjoyed.
He thought that even if they had picked up the pendant, they would have been afraid to keep it with them. If this is true, they will throw it away. However, since he is a royal, he will know if he makes someone look for it. Therefore, he just said that it was lost and didn’t make anyone look for it.
As long the palace maid is left alone, he can ask for the jade pendant back. Otherwise, he can ask where it fell.
Wen Chan, who had made up his mind, would occasionally glance at the maid from the opposite side. The atmosphere at the banquet became noisy after everybody drank wine. While no one was paying attention, the maid slipped out of the banquet.
Wen Chan immediately chased after her, and as Ah Fu saw Wen Chan’s actions, he tried following him too. But he was stopped by Wen Chan, “You wait for me here. I’ll be right back, and if Emperor Father asks, tell him that I went out to relieve myself.”
Ah Fu accepted the order without asking much and waited obediently at his original position.
Even without taking Qin Qi and Shu Hua along with him, he quickly followed the path the maid went. Only a few people noticed his departure.
There was a huge forest to the east of Nanling garden. After Wen Chan became the emperor, all the exotic plants there were replaced by cherry blossoms. Every year on the fourth of May, reddish-orange petals would flutter around everywhere, making the forest look like a fairyland.
However, flowering trees were not yet introduced in Nanling Garden.
Under bitter cold winter, the trees became bare as all their leaves fell. The lights of the lanterns from the banquet were getting dimmer, and there was only one lantern to see in the road. The night had a somewhat gloomy aura.
Wen Chan followed closely, and sure enough, he caught sight of the palace maid’s silhouette. She hadn’t noticed him, so he continued following her.
Unexpectedly, the palace maid detected a bit later that someone was following her. She became flustered and sped up her footsteps to get rid of Wen Chan.
When Wen Chan got discovered, he simply stopped hiding and shouted out in a stern voice, “How dare you keep on going, you audacious slave!”
The palace maid was frightened to death by the call, and she started trembling violently. She swiftly kneeled down on the ground and then turned around to kowtow to Wen Chan. She then started crying in a trembling voice, “This slave knows that she is wrong! Please spare my life, master!”
Wen Chan had deliberately tried to threaten her, and on seeing her frightened stiff, he was satisfied. He walked up to her and asked her coldly, “Why did you sneak out alone?”
“This slave was in a hurry to take a leak. That’s why I came out.” The palace maid said as she stuck her head on the ground. Her body was shaking like sieve chaff, and her body shrank into a ball.
Wen Chan sneered, “You think Bengong will believe your words? Instead of going to the toilet, you came to this place. Were you planning to meet your ‘Mr. Right’ again?”
At present there, only two among the successors of the throne can call themselves Bengong. One was the crown prince of Donggong.4east palace The second person was the Ninth highness of the Sudong5current emperor.
The palace maid was clever. She recognized that this was not the crown prince’s voice, so she was able to immediately guess who Wen Chan was. She cried out loudly, “Your Highness, please investigate it thoroughly! This slave was wronged! This slave was accused wrongly!”
The voice was so sharp and shrill that it made Wen Chan’s ears ring for a moment. He took a few steps back and said fiercely, “Bengong saw with his own eyes. Wasn’t it you who had a secret meeting with the bodyguard in that warm pavilion?
“No! No!” The palace maid shook her head frantically, “This slave didn’t go anywhere today.”
“How dare you argue with me! Didn’t you pick up Bengong’s jade pendant while escaping from the warm pavilion?”
“Ninth Highness! This slave really didn’t have a private meeting with anyone, let alone seeing Your Highness’s jade token! If Your Highness doesn’t believe me, then Your highness can call Ah Qing and ask her. I’ve been with her all day today! I didn’t go anywhere!”
Wen Chan didn’t expect this person to be so good at talking. He had picked two holes in the window and could see them so clearly that day!
He calmed down his emotions. He lowered his voice, “If you hand over the jade token to Bengong obediently, then Bengong will not look into the matter of your secret meeting.”
The so-called method of using both carrot and stick6using both gentle methods and force was probably like this. Wen Chan was extremely satisfied with the way he handled the situation.
But the palace maid didn’t seem to be affected by his methods. She just repeated one sentence again and again, “This slave did not do it! This slave has been wronged!”
“Bengong won’t go back on his promise if he makes one.”
“Slave girl was wronged!”
“Bengong is forgiving.”
“Slave servant didn’t do it!”
“This slave is really being accused wrongly!” The palace maid wailed. Then, her eyes rolled back, and she unexpectedly fainted from crying.
Wen Chan was furious: “Bengong orders you to get up. Don’t pretend to faint!”
He felt that he could not hold back his anger any longer. He just wanted to retrieve his jade pendant. Why was it so difficult?
Even after standing and waiting for a while, the person lying on the ground did not move at all. She laid there like a corpse. Wen Chan knew that this palace maid was very clever, so he believed she must have faked her fainting.
He took a few steps towards the maid. When he was about to bend down to check whether the court lady had really fainted or not, his eyes were suddenly blinded by a bright light, and a sound of strong wind passed by his ears. Wen Chan had been practicing martial arts for many years, so he was more than familiar with this bright light.
That was a ray of light reflected from a sharp blade.
He subconsciously backed down, and when he glanced up, he saw a sharp blade passing above his eyes. It almost cut his nose that stood high.
He didn’t expect that there would be assassins in the palace!
The blade came unexpectedly like a thunderbolt. Wen Chan dodged the first blow with his keen instincts, but because of the speed of his retreat, he almost failed to stand on his feet.
After standing firm, the sharp blade came again before he could get a clear picture of the person. He dodged sideways to avoid the blade. He then circled his right hand and slammed the wrist holding the double-sided blade. But sadly, Wen Chan’s strength was not enough to throw the blade from the other person’s hand.
In the end, this body was very young, and he didn’t like practicing martial arts during this time. He was just a lazy fellow who was never diligent. He was just a waste of a royal son who only knew to wait for death.
Even though he had many ticks in his mind, he couldn’t even use a small part of them. He was forced to retreat again and again.
That person’s attacks were extremely ruthless. The blade was aimed to take Wen Chan’s life. Each strike went for his throat and other fatal places like the heart. But this single attack allowed Wen Chan to find a flaw in the other party.
An opportunity arose when that person swung out the sword. He took advantage of the opportunity and raised his foot to kick hard at the assassin’s leg socket.
Unexpectedly, the assassin reacted quickly. He twisted away his leg, and Wen Chan’s leg fell on the side of the assassin’s knee. He skewed only for a moment and then quickly stood firm. At the same time, the sword swung back, and the blade pointed directly at the side of Wen Chan’s neck.
It was coming at a very high speed, and it was too late for him to dodge it again. Wen Chan wanted to jump up and resist the damage that may happen on top of his shoulders and not have his head cut off.
However, in the moment of jumping, Wen Chan suddenly felt a hand tightly holding his waist. His body was held up by a strong force, rotating in a circle in the air, and landed firmly on the ground.
Wen Chan’s brain was still blank because of the panic. He looked down to see an arm had suddenly appeared on his waist. His eyes followed the arm to see the other person. He looked up and a beautiful face reflected in his eyes.
- 1cousin: older male patrilineal cousin
- 2I / this prince
- 3The people at the banquet will recite poems building off the previous person on the spot.
- 4east palace
- 5current emperor
- 6using both gentle methods and force