The Entire Court Provides Donations
Concubine Jing had died. This news caught the Empress a little off guard. Although she had prepared herself mentally that the disturbance at Winter Moon Palace the previous night definitely involved some of the imperial concubines, she never thought that something would happen so quickly.
She asked Fang Yi: “How did she die?”
Fang Yi said: “A palace servant came to report, saying that bed sheets were hung from the roof, and she was hung.”
“Oh?” The Empress thought a bit, “Suicide?” She then thought back to concubine Jing’s actions in front of Winter Moon Palace the previous night. Although she did say some things, it did not stand out too much. Compared to imperial concubine Yuan Shu, it was far too different. Why would the first one to die at this time be concubine Jing?
Just as she was feeling puzzled, another palace servant arrived in the hall to report: “Reporting to your Highness, there is already news from the court. It’s said that the deputy leader of the imperial guards on duty last night has already made a confession. The fire was started by him with the goal of burning imperial concubine Yun to death inside Winter Moon Palace. From there, the inner palace would return to its original state. Even if the Emperor favored another person, the other imperial concubines would at least have a chance to compete, instead of the current situation where… where they are simply waiting to die.”
“Impudent!” The Empress’ nose nearly became crooked from the anger, “A lowly deputy leader of the imperial guards actually wants to concern himself with the matters of the inner palace?”
The palace servant continued: “Responding to your Highness, that deputy leader’s younger sister is concubine Jing. His actions were merely for the sake of providing his younger sister with a better future. But that deputy leader said that concubine Jing did not know about it at all. It was all his own idea.”
Fang Yi’s mind moved then spoke up to say: “With things like this, things have lined up.”
The Empress thought for a bit then nodded, “Over the years, because of the matters in the inner palace, the Emperor promoted a number of people related to the imperial concubines to appease them. This One was able to remember what people got what jobs at first, but as the years passed, this One did not continue to pay too much attention to that. Thinking about it now, it seemed that concubine Jing had an elder brother that was working in the imperial palace. Forget it!” She sighed then said: “Since that deputy leader has confessed, this crime will definitely not allow him to live. Concubine Jing has already died from hanging. This case should be considered as having been solved.” She said this then waved her hand, dismissing the palace servant.
Fang Yi waited until the servant had left before saying: “Has your Highness decided to settle it like this? Can his Majesty be satisfied with just that?”
The Empress knew that she would ask this and could not help but smile bitterly and say: “Whether or not he can be satisfied will depend on himself. This matter made it clear that concubine Jing had been used by someone, and she would rather admit her guilt by dying than expose the culprit. This makes it clear that she did this to relieve the other party of guilt. However, who knew that both were thinking the same thing. In the end, neither was able to save the other.”
“Then does your Highness believe that the person that instigated all of this was…”
“You must keep a close eye on imperial concubine Yuan Shu today. Report any of her movement immediately.” The Empress said this with a cold expression. She was not a fool. The rights and wrong committed in the palace could be ignored, but there was not a single one that could escape her notice. The troubling matter was that imperial concubine Yuan Shu was the birth mother of the eighth prince. This matter would need to be suppressed for the time being. At least, she had to endure until the eighth prince returned to the capital. She would see what the situation was before making a final decision.
With imperial concubine Yuan Shu being mentioned, Fang Yi recalled a matter: “Apparently, after the large fire at Winter Moon Palace last night, someone saw concubine Jing head over to Cun Shan Palace, but she did not remain for too long before coming out. When she came out, her expression was not too good. She had been crying.”
“Un.” The Empress nodded and was not surprised, only ordering: “Continue keeping watch.” She then sighed: “Because of imperial concubine Yun’s existence, the inner palace has been peaceful for many years. Finally, someone was unable to endure the loneliness.”
With Winter Moon Palace being repaired, the Emperor had become spirited. None of the money being used was taken from the national treasury. Instead, it was from his personal funds.
The Emperor had saved up quite a large sum of private funds over the years, but if it was all used to repair Winter Moon Palace, Zhang Yuan would feel distressed. This eunuch thought for a bit and came up with an idea. He spread the word about the Emperor using his own funds to fund the repair of Winter Moon Palace. Not half a day later, there were princes and high-ranking officials pledging to donate. The amounts were extremely generous, and there was more than enough for the repairs to Winter Moon Palace. The Emperor felt a great amount of satisfaction.
After a night of chaos in the palace, the outside world was not affected in the slightest. During the afternoon on this day, Wu Li Sheng brought a basket filled with fruit to the Feng residence. She was led by the housekeeper to the main hall, where Fen Dai received her.
When the housekeeper came to report, he said that the new neighbor had come to visit. It had to be the case that Fen Dai had seen the neighboring Prince Lian. Although she did not know what sort of person he was, she was immediately stunned by his appearance. Even if it was someone proud and arrogant like Fen Dai, she could not help but feel silently shocked after seeing Prince Lian. It also created a feeling of inferiority. She knew that even if she was remade, she could not have such a beautiful face. But after thinking a bit, if she was not that pretty, then Feng Yu Heng was also not that pretty. Thinking like this, she felt much better.
Upon hearing that her neighbor had come to visit, she thought that it was the exceptionally beautiful woman that had come. She thought that she would take a closer look. After all, it was hard to get a good look from far away on that day. But she never thought that the person to come into the hall, although also beautiful, could not be compared to that exceptional beauty. She appeared far too inferior. She was just average.
Li Sheng greeted Fen Dai and quickly went forward to salute, saying: “This humble wife is Li Sheng and greets the Feng family’s young miss.”
The words humble wife caught Fen Dai’s attention. Only then did she look at Li Sheng’s makeup. Sure enough, she had the appearance of a young wife. Fen Dai asked her: “Are you a servant from the neighbor’s residence?”
Li Sheng was stunned then looked down at her own clothes. Although they were not too expensive, they were much better than what a servant could wear. How could the Feng family’s young miss believe that she was a servant?
Seeing her stand there in a daze without admitting it, Fen Dai recalled a matter. She quickly added: “I’ve got it. You are the younger sister of the beautiful person next door? A few days ago, I heard people talk about a beautiful person moving in next door with their younger sister.” While speaking, she inspected Li Sheng. Puzzled, she asked: “Since you are already a wife, why are you still living with your older sister? Oh right, it should be that your elder sister moved into a new residence, so you came to help out, right?”
These words left Li Sheng in the clouds; however, she also understood. This young miss Feng definitely thought that Prince Lian was a girl. Ever since she had left the North, Prince Lian had warned her time and time again: in Da Shun’s capital, she absolutely must not bring up his former status. They were just normal citizens. They definitely did not have any relation to Qian Zhou.
She was not allowed to bring up their identity, but she could talk about their relationship as husband and wife. Thus Li Sheng spoke in a very serious tone and told Fen Dai: “Young miss Feng is mistaken. Thinking about it, the exceptional beauty that young miss Feng is speaking of should be my husband. My husband was born with an exceptional figure. It’s unavoidable that people would think that he is a woman.”
“What?” Fen Dai was a little dazed, a man? “Impossible! Impossible!” She spoke while standing up. It was clear that she was a bit shaken, “On that day, I personally heard someone ask that woman. It was that woman that personally admitted that she had moved into the capital with her younger sister. There’s no way that I was mistaken.” As she spoke, she looked at Li Sheng in confusion. She then asked with a bit of anger: “Do you think that I am an idiot? It must be said that someone that beautiful might only be seen once every thousand years, but even if my eyes are bad, they are not so bad as to not be able to differentiate between a man and a woman. She personally admitted that you are the younger sister, so do not try to deceive this young miss. I will tell you that I am the future official princess Li. His Highness Prince Li is the fifth prince of Da Shun. Think carefully about what sort of crime it is to be deceiving me.”
Li Sheng retreated a step. She had not been frightened by Fen Dai’s words; however, she was feeling a bit hurt. At this moment, her mind was a mess. Her mind was filled with Fen Dai saying: “She personally admitted that you are the younger sister.” She did not understand. She was clearly Prince Lian’s wife, so how had she become the younger sister?
The maidservant at her side that had come along knew that her young miss was about to become ill, thus she quickly said: “Madam, don’t feel hurt. Thinking about it, master must have been wearing women’s clothes on that day. In order to avoid having people misunderstand, he just casually said it. Madam also knows master’s personality. Don’t take it to heart.” As she spoke, she took the basket of fruits and pastries then placed them on a table. Bowing to Fen Dai, she said: “Young miss Feng, our madam prepared some treats but did not know that young miss was of such a noble background. We have troubled you. These treats are a little too shabby. We hope that young miss Feng will forgive us.”
Fen Dai did not mind this. Either way, she was a bit interested in the people that had just moved in next door. That woman was born looking extremely beautiful. She was so beautiful that it was unable to cause anyone to feel jealous. It just caused people to feel the desire to get closer to her. She hurriedly said: “It’s fine, it’s not shabby. You coming to visit is something that ought to be done. In the future, we will be neighbors. If there is any matter, come and find me.” As she spoke, she immediately asked: “Is the master of that residence that beauty?”
The servant once again corrected Fen Dai: “That’s not a beauty. That is our master.”
Fen Dai frowned: “Master? That master is the beauty’s father?” Thinking about it, this was the only possibility.
“No.” Who knew that the servant would shake her head once more, “Master is master. He is our madam’s husband and should be the beautiful person that young miss Feng is speaking about!”
Fen Dai was completely dazed. Feeling unreconciled, she asked once more: “Then what is their surname?”
The servant said: “The surname is Lian.” After saying this, she did not continue to remain. Dragging along Li Sheng, she saluted to Fen Dai then retreated.
Fen Dai did not stop them. She was just puzzled while standing in the hall. She thought about that exceptionally beautiful woman that she had seen on that day. She had clearly heard that woman say that she was the master of the residence, and she had heard a kind citizen ask who she was living with. She replied saying that she would be living with her younger sister. Could it be that she really did make a mistake? That wasn’t a woman, rather… it was a man?
Fen Dai came to her senses and shook her head. It was impossible. If a man looked like that, how enchanting would that be?
Wu Li Sheng returned to the neighboring residence in a complete daze. Even after she returned to her own courtyard, she was still a little confused. Her mind continued to return to what Fen Dai had said and the relationship between her and Prince Lian. She even asked her personal maidservant: “Who exactly am I?”
This was something that Wu Li Sheng often did over the years. Her maidservant was not too surprised. She just coaxed her into lying down and going to sleep. There was nothing else that she could do.
On the other side, Prince Lian came out of another corner of the residence. With a group of servants, he headed straight for the entrance of the residence. He directed the servants to put up the recently completed inscribed board outside.
At this moment, Feng Jin Yuan was seated in a carriage and returning to the manor. When the carriage was passing by the neighboring residence, he called for the carriage to stop. His gaze, however, was fixed on the woman directing the servants in setting up the inscribed board. Upon seeing her, he was extremely shocked.