Imperial Concubines Revolt
These words caused the Emperor to freeze. He did not understand and loudly shouted: “If you didn’t find her, just keep searching for Us!”
The guard said it once more, “Your Majesty, we really did not find imperial concubine Yun!”
Once these words were spoken, more and more people began to run out of the palace. All of them arrived before the Emperor and said the same thing: “Your Majesty, we could not find imperial concubine Yun inside Winter Moon Palace.”
Immediately following this, a large group of palace servants came outside. There were also some of Winter Moon Palace’s hidden guards helping the palace maids out of the sea of flames. The Emperor watched this, his eyes turning red. Taking a few steps forward, he grabbed a hidden guard and loudly asked: “Where is your master?”
The female hidden guard’s face was bright red and hot from the flames. At this moment, she did not know how she should respond to the Emperor. She was still supporting the head palace maid of Winter Moon Palace, Su Yu, but Su Yu was also very hesitant, lowering her head even further.
The Emperor furrowed his brow tightly, as a bad premonition filled his heart. He did not pay any more heed to Zhang Yuan’s tugging. Exerting his strength, he pulled himself away from Zhang Yuan and charged toward the sea of flames.
Zhang Yuan was given a fright and quickly shouted: “Hidden guards! Stop him!”
The Emperor’s hidden guards were not there for nothing. Even if a portion had charged into the fire to save people, the remainder would not take even half a step away from the Emperor, even if they ended up dead. Seeing that the Emperor was about to charge into the fire, countless hidden guards appeared before Zhang Yuan even shouted. In an instant, they stopped the Emperor.
However, the Emperor had already exerted his strength. He was desperate to break free from the hidden guards. Having a breakdown, he shouted: “Let go of Us! Let go! Do you servants no longer want to live! Guards, take these people away and have them executed! Let go. We must go inside to save them. Pian Pian! Pian Pian!”
The people were scared stiff. The Empress was the most affected by this. Kneeling in front of the Emperor, she grabbed his robe with both hands and begged while crying: “Your Majesty, calm down. You are the world for Da Shun. Your life is not just your own, nor does it just belong to imperial concubine Yun. It belongs to all of the citizens in Da Shun! There are already so many people working to put out the fire. If you charge inside, it would not be the slightest bit helpful to this effort. Instead, it will cause even more disorder for those trying to put out this fire. If you really want the best for imperial concubine Yun, you should wait outside and wait for her properly. Like this, the servants can focus on going in to save them. Your Majesty, this wife begs you to calm down!”
With the Empress kneeling and begging, the imperial concubines also kneeled. For a while, their cries filled the air.
The Emperor was shaking with anger; however, he had managed to calm down a little. He asked Su Yu: “When the fire started, who was with your master?”
At this moment, Su Yu had also calmed down. She arrived in front of the Emperor and replied: “Replying to your Majesty, before the fire broke out, imperial concubine Yun had already gone to bed. When imperial concubine goes to bed, she does not keep someone nearby. That is why there are no servants inside the bedchamber to take care of her. But the servants did not go far. There were people just outside the door and in the yard. This fire started in the front yard, but a fire also started in the back shortly after that. The servants were in a rush to put out the fire. When this servant went into the bedchamber to wake up the imperial concubine, I found that the bedchamber was already empty.”
After she finished speaking, she gave a look to the female hidden guard at her side, and the hidden guard immediately said: “This subordinate guesses that imperial concubine definitely noticed the fire and avoided it on her own.”
“Where could she have gone to avoid it?” The Emperor stomped his foot and immediately ordered the palace servants: “Continue searching. Go look in places to hide!”
Fortunately, the fire had begun to die down at this point. The guards soaked themselves in water and were fine when charging inside. After a bit of time passed, the imperial guards that had rushed inside to search charged back out; however, they reported the same thing to the Emperor: “Your Majesty, imperial concubine Yun could not be found inside Winter Moon Palace.”
At this moment, there was finally a voice that came from the group of imperial concubines that asked: “Could it be that imperial concubine Yun isn’t in the palace at all?”
Everyone followed the voice and looked over. It was an inconspicuous woman, and her status was not great; however, the Empress immediately recognized her and asked: “Concubine Jing, what do you mean by that?”
The person that had spoken was concubine Jing. They just saw her raise her head and look at the Emperor with a greedy expression, as though she would be missing out if she looked away for even a moment. It was as though she wanted to engrave the image of this man into her eyes.
The Empress saw that she was only focused on staring at the Emperor without replying, her expression became cold. She stood up and took a couple steps toward the imperial concubines, saying once more: “It seems that concubine Jing is feeling unwell today. Servants, send concubine Jing back to her palace.”
Before servants could move, imperial concubine Yuan Shu suddenly raised her voice; however, she scolded concubine Jing: “Concubine Jing, you can eat your food messily, but you must not speak nonsense. What do you mean by saying that imperial concubine Yun is not in the palace? If she’s isn’t in the palace, where could she be? Do you think that she fled the palace?”
These words, however, pushed the location of imperial concubine Yun back as the main topic of discussion.
The Emperor listened to all of this in a daze. He suddenly felt his heart tremble. It was as though this thought could be seen vividly. It was as though concubine Jing and imperial concubine Yuan Shu’s words were like confirmation.
He did not dare continue thinking about it, nor did he dare call for people to continue going inside to search. He just blankly asked Zhang Yuan: “Is what they said true or false?”
Zhang Yuan angrily and fiercely glared at imperial concubine Yuan Shu. This glare made imperial concubine Yuan Shu believe that this eunuch was about to kill her to silence her. Immediately following this, they heard Zhang Yuan say to the Emperor: “Imperial concubine Yun might have fled Winter Moon Palace on her own because of the fire. Thinking about it, that must be what the two masters meant by saying that she is not in the palace.”
The Emperor suddenly saw the light: “Right, right, she’s just not in Winter Moon Palace. That’s fine. When there’s a fire, who wouldn’t run away? Pian Pian isn’t an idiot. Hah, what are you still standing around in a daze for?” With Winter Moon Palace’s fire almost put out, the thick smoke was suppressed with buckets of water. The Emperor directed the imperial guards that were staring blankly: “Quickly go search around the rest of the palace. After finding her, immediately bring imperial concubine Yun back!”
The imperial concubines complied and left. Zhang Yuan wiped some sweat off of his forehead. He was also feeling extremely depressed. Right now, he just needed to stall for as much time as possible. Once he could truly no longer stall any further, he could only accept his fate. When that time came, he would use his death to hold him off. He just did not believe that the Emperor was able to watch him die in front of him. He would still want to go out of the palace to search.
The guards searched the palace. Because this was the Emperor’s order, they moved very quickly. Two hours later, everyone returned to Winter Moon Palace’s entrance. Once again, it was the deputy leader of the imperial guards that reported to the Emperor: “Your Majesty, the entire palace has been searched. Imperial concubine Yun still has not been spotted.”
“What?” The Emperor’s body swayed. If it was not for Zhang Yuan and the Empress helping to support him from behind, he would definitely have fallen to the ground.
It had to be at this time that imperial concubine Yuan Shu chose to speak once more, “Could it be that concubine Jing… was actually right? Imperial concubine Yun really did flee the palace?”
Once this was said, the imperial concubines that had spent 20 years in the imperial palace with nothing began to feel furious. Because of imperial concubine Yun’s existence, they had been buried deep inside the imperial palace to live out their lives. In the past, there was still competition between imperial concubines. Although they were extremely dangerous, they would be left feeling angry and at least had a way of knowing that they were alive. But ever since imperial concubine Yun appeared, there was no longer any point in any further competitions because the Emperor treated everyone the same. Aside from occasionally going to drink tea with the Empress, the inner palace was a place that he did not set foot in for over 20 years. The Jing Shi Hall had become an unnecessary existence. The servants of that hall were even more comfortable than people in retirement homes; however, there was nobody that cared about how those young women from that time should settle themselves down. As they gradually became older, the hair near their temples began to turn white. There had been some imperial concubines that could not hold themselves back and engaged in private relations with imperial guards. Those that were discovered were beaten to death. Those that were not discovered would live on sneakily. There were also some that had their hair turn white over a single night. Not long after that, they would lose their minds.
All of this was related to imperial concubine Yun. All of this was trouble caused by the person inside Winter Moon Palace.
Imperial concubine Yuan Shu and concubine Jing’s words gave them the ability to get this off of their chests, with someone shouting: “Imperial concubine Yun’s actually not in the palace? Then what exactly was the point of us spending our time alone over the years?”
Questions like this began to be heard, “We are all his Majesty’s concubines. If we couldn’t obtain his favor, we could accept that, but on what basis can she not see his Majesty and force him to not see us? She isn’t even in the palace. Why does she still force us down that desolate path?”
“Wa!” Finally, someone began crying and shouting in a loud voice: “When I entered the palace, I was only 16 years old. I had someone that I liked, but the palace’s selection still brought me in. I gave up on the person that I liked and gave up on remaining at father and mother’s side to be filial. I did not have any aspirations of obtaining a high standing. I just hoped that your Majesty would treat me well. But your Majesty only visited me three times. I don’t even have a child. At this point, I’m just a concubine. In the blink of an eye, I’m already almost 40 years old. Who will pay me back for these two decades? Who will pay me back?”
With her crying, even more people began crying. Eventually, some people began to denounce imperial concubine Yun: “If she was in the palace, that would be fine, but she isn’t here. Your Majesty must give us an explanation!”
“Right! Give us an explanation!”
“Capture imperial concubine Yun and send her to the Board of Punishments’ prison.”
“Imperial concubines that flee the palace must be hung immediately!”
The Emperor looked at this situation that he could no longer control. Listening to the cries and screams of these imperial concubines, the despair in his eyes grew deeper and deeper.
He did not care that these women were crying and screaming; however, he cared much more about the outcome of imperial concubine Yun not being in the palace. If she was here, everything would have been fine. He could wave his sleeve and lock up all of these noisy women. Or if they desired it, he could let them out of the palace if they desired. But if imperial concubine Yun wasn’t here, what could he do?
The Empress frowned and looked at this ruckus, angrily raising her voice to say: “Everyone shut your mouths! Are you unhappy with your own positions? Alright, this One will give you an even better home to return to!” She pointed at the concubine that had complained about entering the palace at sixteen and said: “Take her to the cold palace for this One. There’s no need to let her out!”
Some people immediately charged forward and quickly brought that concubine away. Any further cries were completely pointless.
The Empress looked at the other concubines and asked: “Is there anyone else that wants to go and keep her company?”
In an instant, everyone suppressed their voices. After the ruckus had ended, they quickly regained their senses. The majority began to feel afraid for the outcome of their outburst.
But in the end, there was someone that was dissatisfied with this outcome, as imperial concubine Yuan Shu asked: “Right now, what should be done? Imperial concubine Yun should be considered… missing?”
Before the Empress could speak, a voice that seemed to have come from the heavens spoke out from the direction of a small pathway, “Who is it that is spreading a story of this prince’s imperial concubine mother isn’t in the palace? Who is it that set their mind on saying that this prince’s imperial concubine mother is missing?”
At the same time, a palace servant loudly announced: “His Highness Prince Yu has arrived! Imperial daughter Ji An has arrived!”