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The two palanquins stopped at the same time. The porters lay down the rods, and just like the meeting between Fan Jian and Chen Pingping, they quietly withdrew to a spot in the distance. The palanquin passengers faced forward, and the people inside should have felt uncomfortable, but strangely, neither the Prime Minister nor the other person in the palanquin got out to see each other.

So the palanquin passengers bowed to each other, like two friends clasping their hands in greeting, and like a bride and groom coming forth from the bridal room to kneel before Heaven in ceremony.

"Ruofu, do not grieve too deeply." A gentle voice finally came from the opposite palanquin. It was the Eldest Princess, come out of the palace to see her lover of many years.

Hearing that familiar voice, the Prime Minister frowned slightly. It seemed that he was thinking back to all those years ago. He spoke quietly. "I am deeply grateful that you would concern yourself with my family's affairs, Your Grace."

Hearing such a distant tone of voice, the Eldest Princess's voice became soft and mournful. "This distance between us... how can we speak of it? Why do you speak so formally?"

A cold laugh came from the Prime Minister's palanquin. "Your Grace, I could not allow myself to become putty in your hands."

The other palanquin was silent, seemingly taken by surprise by such wounding words. After a long time came a pitiful reply. "Ruofu, what are you really thinking? Though Gong was not my child, I would still have people send him gifts during the New Year, and I still loved him just as you did... how can I, a princess, have become your punching bag? To hell with it all... you are sad. Otherwise you would not be speaking with me."

Lin Ruofu suddenly gave a snort. "Today I am visiting Your Grace because I wanted to say that I have given my consent to Chen'er's wedding in October."

Darkness hung outside the palace walls, with only the lantern beside the Eldest Princess's palanquin scattering a few scarce beams of light. The long period of silence was enough to confirm that the woman inside the palanquin was weak and delicate. At that moment she was astonished, and on hearing those words she became angry. After some time had passed, the Eldest Princess spoke with a voice as clear and cold as the winter winds. "She is my daughter! You cannot allow her to marry that Fan bastard!" Whether she was inside the palace or outside, the Eldest Princess had always presented an image of utter frailty. Who could have known that she would speak so forcefully?

"Can you... disobey His Majesty?" Lin Ruofu's voice had somehow taken on a tone of self-reproach. "Besides... His Majesty has informed the kingdom that Chen'er is my daughter. That means that she is doomed to be considered a less-than-brilliant character."

The Eldest Princess spoke in a sad and poignant voice. "You really are going to do this..."

Hearing this, Lin Ruofu felt nauseated. "Your Grace is worried about the royal purse," he said with disgust. "That is not within the scope of my consideration."

The Eldest Princess's voice trembled. "If you won't consider it, then who will? I am a mere woman, and I live alone in the palace; do you think that the past few years have been easy for me?"

Sitting in his palanquin, Lin Ruofu was filled with loathing. "I have a daughter, but all year round, we cannot see each other, and can only glance at each other from a distance at royal banquets. Do you think being a father in this way has been easy for me!?"

The Eldest Princess tried to mount a miserable defense. "There's nothing to be done about that. I gave birth to her in secret, and I didn't have the heart to ruin your future. She was raised alone. Over these few years, I have arranged things for you in the palace, transferring money from the royal purse in secret for you to use. Do you think nothing good of me at all?"

There was a coldness in the Prime Minister's voice. He spoke in a low snarl. "My future? Ever since then, when have I ever wanted this kind of future? Back then, I was a poor scholar-minister, and now I have become Prime Minister. It may seem impressive, but I have a daughter I can never meet. I had a son, but..." His voice began to tremble. "But he is dead. How could this be the future that I wanted? This is just the power that you wanted. You weren't willing to marry someone who could never stick his head out, settling down for the rest of your days didn't interest you, and you think I'm supposed to be thankful for that?"

Hearing this, the Eldest Princess was angry, her voice filled with tears and curses. "Lin Ruofu, this is the way that things are, and yet you come to me to say such awful things. If you really weren't willing, why didn't you say anything when you entered the Overwatch Council? Why didn't you feel sad when you entered the Hanlin Academy? When you were found a post at the Ministry of Appointments, why didn't you blame yourself? You climbed up step by step, and you never thought of me once. Now nothing stands in your way, and yet you take all your anger out on me!"

"Very well, Rui'er." Hearing the Eldest Princess's voice get louder and louder, Lin Ruofu's voice was calmed, but his words were incomparably bitter. "I would rather you were the shrew that you are, rather than being in the sorry state that you are in. It makes me sick, did you know that?"

The Eldest Princess said nothing.

"As for Chen'er's wedding, I have made my decision. I have investigated Fan Xian. It doesn't matter what kind of person he is; at the very least, he is not an easy person to kill." Lin Ruofu spoke coldly. "I do not wish for my daughter to become a widow."

The Eldest Princess spoke harshly. "Have you lost the plot? Gong has been murdered, and you urgently rope in the Fan family. Don't tell me you really believe what that old bastard Chen Pingping says? Who is Sigu Sword, and how could they come to the capital and kill people? We can't know for sure that Fan Jian isn't the mastermind behind the scenes."

"My son has died," said Lin Ruofu coldly. "Do you not realize that I wasn’t able to see him one final time? I can't cover up those scars. Sigu Sword is swift and fierce and moves as he pleases. I may have made a mistake, but I can never admit it."

Seeing that she could not convince him, the Eldest Princess's tone softened. "Let me look into it," she pleaded. "Even if you don't feel any tenderness towards me, you cannot let Chen'er marry into the Fan family."

After a moment of silence, Lin Ruofu finally spoke. "Wu Bo'an came to me with a plan to assassinate Fan Xian. I disagreed. I didn't realize he would have convinced my stupid son Gong."

The Eldest Princess was quiet. She knew it was already very difficult to get him to believe that she had nothing to do with this matter.

"Wu Bo'an is your man." Lin Ruofu's voice was so cold that it seemed it could freeze still the flapping curtains of the palanquin in the night breeze. "I always knew he was your man. You used him to keep an eye on me, but I never realized that my son died because of you. So I think we should end it here."

The night winds slowly wound their way through the Imperial City, and the green palanquins were raised up and carried into the darkness, a decrepit lantern hung alone on the side of one of the sedan chairs. From the palanquin came the faint sound of a woman's sobs.

Filled with fear, a palace eunuch stepped forward. To the side, a palace maid carried a lantern, and the party of people slowly entered the corner gate of the palace.

The palanquin along moved some way before finally reaching the building where the Eldest Princess was temporarily residing. The curtain on the palanquin lifted, and the Eldest Princess stepped out, tears streaming down her face. The eunuchs and maids quickly lowered their heads, and did not dare to look up. The Eldest Princess stepped weakly up onto the stone steps, finally wiping the tears from her face. Suddenly, she smiled sweetly, revealing her beauty like the blossoming of a willow tree. She spoke timidly. "Kill them."

Suddenly, countless points of light appeared! The eunuchs had no time to beg forgiveness before the palace maids withdrew knives from their sleeves and slit their throats. Within the palace hall that night, there was only the sound of their bodies hitting the ground.

The Prime Minister's mansion was not the biggest in the capital, but it was the most magnificent. Whether it was King Jing, or the oldest and richest families, they could not match the Minister's mansion. The entrance and the decorations of the Prime Minister's mansion did not look particularly expensive, but anyone who was truly in the know would be impressed by the items on display. Just the items inside, a few chairs placed at random, were worth about as much as King Jing's plant nursery.

Of course, the comparison made exclude Emperor's palace. No one could dare compare themselves to the Imperial Palace.

Lin Ruofu had collected much wealth over the past twenty or so years. Everyone knew of his greed and wickedness. How the Emperor had never seen it despite having his eyes constantly on him was truly a puzzling matter.

Walking past the lobby, he greeted the officials who had come to convey their sympathies. Looking rather disappointed, he entered the inner chamber. The officials knew that the Prime Minister was in a gloomy state of mind, and that it was inappropriate to disturb him, so they took their leave, with only a handful of officials with urgent business left behind, bewildered. Lin Ruofu seemed to have thought of them, and he returned and asked them what had happened. Forcing himself to deal with the matters, he finally waved them away. When the officials left his residence, they both blamed themselves and were filled with indescribable gratitude. The Prime Minister put public affairs first in the midst of such a tragedy; truly he was a pillar of the nation.

Coming into the inner chamber, Lin Ruofu entered his study and sat at a desk. He said nothing for a long time.

"Sir, it is not very fitting to be hostile to the prince at this moment." The Prime Minister's closest friend and most secret advisor, Yuan Hongdao, handed him a cup of tea. Yuan Hongdao was dressed in mourning clothes. As he watched Lin Ruofu forcing himself to go about his business, he could not help but feel sullen. "We don't need to talk right away. You should rest, sir."

Lin Ruofu shook his head, the creases of his brow thick with worry. "This is the way things are. For my descendants, and for the Lin clan, I must prepare my approach."

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