This chapter has been brought to you by me, ororomunroe90, vivie and leecherleechleech.
Note for readers: Feng Zi Jin is mentioned in the chapter as both Feng Zi Jin and Ping cairen. Cairen is her rank, “ping” is her title. Usually, titles are a sign of favor from the Emperor, and with a title, you are ranked a little bit higher than someone who would be the same rank as you. Han Qing He does not have a title, so if she was also a cairen, Feng Ji Zin would be a little tiny bit higher.
Of course, “ping” is calm, peace, and average so it’s more of a warning from He Heng in this case.
Chapter One Hundred and Two East and West
In the place that was the hougong, there were many secrets. It was possible that there wouldn't be a trace of what you had done. The crucial aspect was how high you climbed and how steady you stood.
The two Empress Dowagers ordered the Department of Household Affairs to use torture. The people who served Luo Yin Xiu and Feng Zi Jin all went through the process. It didn't take their lives but it made people unable to even plead for death. Unable to endure the last cycle of torture, a palace maid called Zhu Yu spilled it all, even revealing what her zhuzi had done in the wang fu.
"Aijia did wonder how a feipin, who didn't even have a secure position, could kill someone and remain undetected. So there was someone who helped," Muhou Empress Dowager read through the confession and handed it to Empress Dowager Wei sitting beside her. She sighed, exclaiming, "This Feng shi is too bold."
Empress Dowager Wei scanned the confessions, so angry that her face became red. She wasn't one who showed what she felt, but what the confessions revealed was shocking and infuriating. Especially when the criminal was someone she had personally picked for her son out of the female candidates.
"Come, lead Luo guipin and Ping cairen here," She suppressed her anger and sighed at Muhou Empress Dowager. "We should have known earlier. Aijia shouldn't have arranged for such a cruel woman to serve at the Emperor's side." No wonder Heng'er and erxi had been residing everyday but still didn't have any children in the past. It must have been the poison which harmed the body and it took about half a year to recover from.
"Meimei, you should not blame yourself. You can only see a person's appearance but not their hearts," Muhou Empress Dowager comforted, "It was lucky that it wasn't more serious. It was the heavens that protected them. But since this matter has been solved, should we tell Emperor and Empress?" Such a major matter, the Empress poisoned when she had been in the wang fu, it wasn't right not to inform them.
"This kind of major incident, we can't conceal it from the Emperor and Empress," Empress Dowager Wei had recovered her composure, "Also, send someone to lead Shu gui taifei and Rui Wang over."
"It should be like this," Muhou Empress Dowager nodded. This matter was related to Shu gui taifei.
As they talked, Feng and Luo came in. Just two days in Sheng Shen Zhai but both of them looked much more fragile. Luo guipin still managed to keep her posture but Ping cairen was a sorry figure. Both eyes were dry and unfocused as though she hadn't slept for two whole days.
"Come, give Luo guipin a seat." Muhou Empress Dowager's lips curled. Even though she was smiling, others could still feel her imposing dignity.
"Thanks, Empress Dowager of both palaces," Luo Yin Xiu released a breath inside. To let her sit now, it meant that the matter had been investigated. She was clear that she had nothing to the matter but was afraid that others would wrongly accuse her. After seeing the present situation, she had nothing to worry about.
Qu Qing Ju heard that the two Empress Dowagers had called for her and He Heng to Fu Shou Palace, and looked in shock at He Heng who had been playing a match of weiqi with her: "Muhou has investigated the matter this quickly?"
He Heng naturally wouldn't inform her of the various strategies the Department of Household Affairs had, and only set down the stone in his hand. He smiled, answering: "In this world, when something is done, then a trace will be found. You have to know that in this world, there isn't a case that cannot be solved. It's only whether someone will seriously investigate it."
Qu Qing Ju agreed with He Heng's words. People always talked, the best way for others not to find out was to not do it, so it was better to not commit malicious acts.
Seeing her face full of approval, He Heng stood, adding: "Since muhou wants to see us, let's go take a look at Fu Shou Palace." He ordered for a servant to bring a fox skin cape and then made Qu Qing Ju put on a thick rabbit-skin hand muff before leading her out of Tian Qi Palace.
Coming out of Tian Qi Palace, Qu Qing Ju felt the harsh winter wind blow into her face. The snow on the road had been swept away by the taijian but the roofs and the trees were full of snow. She took in a breath, "Such heavy snow."
Reaching to pull the collar of her cape higher to cover her face, He Heng helped her onto his own carriage. Once the two of them settled, he replied: "Now, it's the twelfth month. It's normal to have this much snow."
Even though she had seen the heavy snow of Jing City last year, Qu Qing Ju had a special feeling for snow. It was most likely due to the fact that she lived in the south and always read of the people making snowmen in the language books and had been disappointed that she couldn't make one herself.
Not being able to obtain something that other people told them about from when they were little, most people would be stubborn in their attachment.
Qu Qing Ju occasionally lifted the curtain as the Imperial carriage traveled and saw the palace maids and taijian kneeling on both sides of the road. Snow was still falling, the ground was cold, but those people knelt with their backs straight, not a hint of slacking.
As they entered Fu Shou Palace, He Heng saw Feng shi kneeling in the center of the hall. Kneeling behind her was a few pale-faced palace maids and taijian. His expression darkened and held hands with Qu Qing Ju to bow to the two Empress Dowagers before sitting to the side.
The ground and walls of Fu Shou Palace were heated. Qu Qing Ju had taken off the fox skin cape but still felt hot. Using her hand to slightly pull at her clothing, she looked at Feng Zi Jin kneeling on the ground, asking: "Muhou, what is going on?"
"These years, this Feng shi has been very brave. Emperor, Empress, take a look," Empress Dowager Wei handed Chun Yu's confession to He Heng. Seeing her son's face become colder, she knew he was angry, and sighed, "It's muhou who has to apologize for arranging such a villain beside you."
"Muhou cannot say that. Feng shi is malicious and adept at disguising herself. Is that muhou's fault?" He Heng furiously slammed the confession onto the table beside him, "It was zhen who was blind to have kept such a woman like this for so many years."
"Emperor!" Feng Zi Jin knew that the matter had been exposed and looked discontentedly at the furious Emperor, "If it wasn't that Emperor had to marry her, and favor her, why else would qie have to do such things?"
Seeing the hand that Feng Zi Jin pointed at her, Qu Qing Ju raised an eyebrow. The marriage had been decreed by Qing De Emperor and He Heng who decided to marry the bride, so why did it become all her fault in the end? If she had the ability, she should be trying to kill Qing De Emperor and He Heng, what was the point of poisoning the original Qu Qing Ju?
"Empress was the wang fei who xiandi decreed. Emperor and her are in deep love, it's the natural order of the world. You are just a small qieshi who, in jealousy, decided to plot against the Emperor. You poisoned wang fei in the wang fu, murdered Han liangdi after entering the palace and framed the Empress. Such a frightening person, and shameless to be angry at the Emperor for marrying. It is very funny," Empress Dowager Wei smiled icily, "So many shiqie in this world. If they were all like you, wouldn't the world end?"
"Shengmu Empress Dowager, you were only a feipin too. Didn't you have times when you had been discontent, but you still became the high up Shengmu Empress Dowager?" Feng Zi Jin raised her head to stare directly at Empress Dowager Wei, scornfully asking, "What's wrong with qie? We're all women, how is Qu Qing Ju nobler than me?"
"A villain like you cannot compare to Shengmu Empress Dowager," Muhou Empress Dowager looked coldly at Feng shi babbling nonsense, "Both in appearance and morals, you cannot compete against Shengmu Empress Dowager. In the past when aijia was still Empress, Shengmu Empress Dowager respected aijia at every turn, and didn't slight aijia who did not receiving any Imperial favor. The Emperor she raised is intelligent and thinks of the people. Becoming Shengmu Empress Dowager, it is the will of the heavens. A woman such as you who dares to poison the wife, how can you compare? You are full of nonsense."
Muhou Empress Dowager's words defended Shengmu Empress Dowager from all angles and told other people that she was approving and in great favor for Shengmu Empress Dowager to sit and rise at the same height as her. She even pushed the matter onto the fate of the heavens, flattering both Empress Dowager Wei and the Emperor and explicitly expressed her position.
When she heard the speech, Qu Qing Ju finally understood how Muhou Empress Dowager, in all these years without the favor of the Emperor and with no son of her own, managed to keep her seat and why Qing De Emperor hadn't ever thought to dispose of her. Her attitude and tactics, such an understanding woman. But just like Empress Dowager Wei, she hadn't met a reliable man, it was so regretful.
She turned her head to look at He Heng. As expected, his expression had relaxed, clearly very satisfied and grateful for Muhou Empress Dowager's words.
"Emperor, Shu gui taifei and Rui Wang have arrived."
"Er chen greets both muhou, greets huang xiong, huang sao." When He Yuan entered the hall, he calmly bowed to the four people as though he didn't see the people kneeling.
This was the first time Qu Qing Ju saw He Yuan after He Heng had ascended the throne. Due to the fact that she didn't like He Yuan in the first place, she hadn't looked at him when he entered. But once the other spoke, she felt that He Yuan felt wrong, as though he went from a delusional youth to a steady yet silent uncle. The change was so drastic that she felt suspicious that the person in front of her and the He Yuan of the past were two different people.
When Shu gui taifei saw Feng Zi Jin kneeling on the ground, her expression became slightly ugly. Before she could speak, Muhou Empress Dowager threw the confession in front of her, "Shu gui taifei, look at that!" If Empress Dowager Wei had done that, others might have said that she was arrogant. But if Muhou Empress Dowager did it, then it was right.
He Yuan looked at the confession that landed on the ground, and then at his mufei, whose expression had changed. He then knew that mufei had done something in the hougong that the Empress Dowager had found out. When he bent down to pick up the paper, and saw that Ping cairen and mufei had cooperated to kill Han liangdi to frame the Empress, his calm face became white. He turned to look at Shu gui taifei, "Mufei?"
Shu gui taifei didn't dare to look at her son. She apprehensively declared to the two Empress Dowagers: "This throne should belong to my son. Why is it that you can live here?!"
"Stop her mouth!" Muhou Empress Dowager commanded darkly, "Shu gui taifei, aijia thinks that you should be more careful. The Emperor ascended the throne properly and rightly. When xiandi made his will, all the advisors had been present. Your misrepresentation of the facts won't be tolerated!"
"Mufei is ignorant, er chen begs both Empress Dowagers to spare her life!" He Yuan watched as his mufei was held down by two mamas, a handkerchief stuffed into her mouth. He gritted his teeth and knelt in front of He Heng, "Please, Emperor, punish lightly."
Qu Qing Ju had been sitting by He Heng's side. Looking at a once willful and brazen person kneeling in front of her, she felt a strange sense of pity.
When Shu gui taifei saw it, she couldn't stop shaking her head. Tears of panic fell down as she couldn't speak. No one would recognize that just a year ago, she had been the Shu guifei, the most favored of the hougong.
Ten years west, ten years east. But Shu gui taifei and He Yuan hadn't thought that this day would happen.
Qu Qing Ju couldn't help but look at the two Empress Dowagers and found that their expressions were frightfully calm, as though Shu gui taifei and He Yuan were putting on an unfunny play in front of them and they were criticizing from high up.
She couldn't help but touch her belly. If she was Shu gui taifei, she wouldn't want to see this either.