This chapter has been brought to you by me, ororomunroe90, vivie and leecherleechleech.
The footnote is not linked because … um… it’s an interesting bit of history and real history is a lot more bloody. Make for an interesting comparison to what happened here.
Chapter One Hundred and Nineteen The Song Ends, The People Leave
At the end of the tenth month, the weather was already very cold. Each of the subordinate countries were preparing for their journey back to their own countries, so before departure, Da Long held a banquet and invited all the envoys from the subordinate countries.
He Heng didn't mention the matter of the country of Jing again in front of Qu Qing Ju. She didn't ask either. There wasn't a rule in Da Long that the hougong couldn't participate in politics but she was very clear of her own limitations. A person who couldn't even finish memorizing "The Art Of War", it was better if they didn't go out into the world to wreck the people.
She had been a manager in her previous life. She knew how to use the desires of other people. Knew how to grasp another to benefit herself. This was the little smarts that belonged to her. But she was self-aware and knew what she was good at, and what she wasn't.
Just like when Feng Zi Jin took advantage of Han liangdi to harm her, she went along with the plan and used it to take care of a woman who was constantly scheming against her. Shu guitaifei had already moved out of the hougong, the two Empress Dowagers were at odds with her so how could they allow Shu gui taifei's people to remain in the palace?
The fact that Shu gui taifei had been implicated in the matter was due her scheming in the background but the greatest influence came from the two Empress Dowagers. They simply used Feng Zi Jin and Han liangdi to pull Shu gui taifei into the mud, to make her life worse than death.
She had guessed the intentions of the two Empress Dowagers so she allowed Feng Zi Jin to pull the crime onto her body, and then watched as she dug her own grave and lost her life.
What person, after they'd developed, would still tolerate their opponent who'd once bullied them? History had the story of the "human swine"[i], here, there was the living lesson that was Shu gui taifei.
As she sat in the phoenix carriage and passed by the pavilion Han liangdi once sang in, Qu Qing Ju tightened her arms around Tun Tun. Her eyes steadily became calm. She wouldn't allow herself to fall to the end that Shu gui taifei got!
"The Empress has arrived!"
Passing through the main doors of Luan He Hall, the vermillion phoenix robe slid silently across the carpet. She disregarded the envoys kneeling on both sides with the officials. Walking to the bottom of the nine jade steps, she bowed to He Heng: "Greetings to the Emperor."
"Quickly rise," He Heng stood from the dragon chair. Seeing Qu Qing Ju walk up the jade stairs, he held her hand to sit down. Qu Qing Ju turned to look at the people still kneeling, announcing: "Everyone, please rise."
"Thanks, Emperor. Thanks, Empress."
Qu Qing Ju smiled and tilted her head. After the people stood, she took away her gaze and turned to stare at He Heng. She continued: "Having made everyone wait, ben gong will self-penalize with a cup." She raised the plum wine in front of her, and using her sleeve to hold the winecup, she threw her head back to drink.
No one really dared to let the Empress drink a cup as penalty like that and followed in raising their own cups to drink. The Emperor had arrived first but he wasn't angry at the Empress' actions. They don't have to meddle in other people's business even more.
"Zhen's son was just crying in Fu Shou Palace. The Empress had no other way but to turn back," He Heng explained with a smile, "It's the duty of parents. Once the child is crying, we can't sit still."
Fu Shou Palace. That was the place that Shengmu Empress Dowager lived. His Highness Imperial Son was crying unstoppably over there, did something happen? If it had just been normal crying, would the Empress make a special trip there?
Everyone felt that something was fishy about the matter. However, after seeing that the Emperor and Empress looked normal, they presumed that it wasn't a major incident and smiled as they took up the topic of childrearing. Even the officials who didn't interact with their own children usually suddenly seemed to become a multi-talented househusband, as though they had personally raised their children.
The mood of the banquet instantly rose. The dancing and songs continued. People toasted and changed cups. It was very harmonious.
He Heng asked quietly at Qu Qing Ju's ear: "Are the two Empress Dowagers alright?"
"Just a shock," Qu Qing Ju raised a winecup. She had a smile but her words were cold, "The people of muhou were cautious. Those things had been found before they could get near Tun Tun. This person of Shu gui taifei hid too deeply, even the two muhou hadn't found them out."
Originally when she had been preparing to travel to the farewell banquet at Luan He Hall, she had met Ding mama of Fu Shou Palace right as she came out of the door to notify her of the matter. Immediately, she lost interest in Luan He Hall and turned to travel to Fu Shou Palace.
The two Empress Dowagers were women who were skilled, and they'd quickly found the person, even uncovering the fact that Shu gui taifei was behind it. She hadn't thought that even though Shu gui taifei had been sent to the Imperial Tomb, she was discontented ehough to have planned such a major attack before leaving.
"What were the things found?" He Heng's face became dark.
"Some dirty blood. It must have been the bloodstains of a person seriously ill. But I'm afraid that Shu gui taifei's person didn't know that anything Tun Tun uses, I'll get them to inspect even a handkerchief before usage," Qu Qing Ju smirked, "I heard that Shu gui taifei's life at the Imperial Tomb is extremely lavish. Since she's so dissatisfied, I have already ordered for them to decrease her allowance, and that each year except for the Mid-autumn Festival, no one is allowed to disturb her peace. When a woman gets old, if her temper is still so fiery, then she needs peaceful days to calm her emotions. I think that Shu gui taifei will soon know how good peaceful days are."
A destitute lifestyle, the people were all dumb and deaf. She wanted to see how Shu gui taifei will live in the future. If she died, that was letting her off too easy. If she couldn't make Shu gui taifei understand what regret was, how would she be at ease?
He Heng heard the meaning in her words and didn't expand further on the topic. He knew just how fierce women were when they were protecting their children. Just like in the past when muhou had protected him using every scheme so that no one could hinder them.
"To hear the Imperial Words and see the Honored Your Majesty the Emperor, and to see the prosperity of Da Long, it wasn't a wasted journey. Envoy of Duo Han, Ah Ji Ka wishes for Da Long to flourish for a thousand years," As the envoy for Duo Han, Ah Ji Ka knew he wasn't favored by Da Long so he put his own status very low when he entered the city of Jing this time in hopes that the people of Da Long believed that Duo Han was sincere in their allegiance to Da Long.
"Many thanks to Ah Ji Ka da ren's lucky words," He Heng raised a winecup towards Ah Ji Ka and took a sip of wine.
Ah Ji Ka saw him drink the wine he toasted and his face became joyful: "Chen represents the people of Duo Han and toasts you. The loyalty of my Duo Han to Da Long can be witnessed by the heavens." He threw his head back and drained the cup. Then he flipped the cup. Not a drop spilled out, "If Duo Han betrays the oath, then let the Heavens send down disasters to punish us."
"Zhen receives the loyalty of the people of Duo Han," He Heng smiled as he finished off the wine in his cup, "Zhen will remember Ah Ji Ka's oath today."
After Ah Ji Ka sat down, he looked smugly at Tu Er and Dai Rong sitting below him. With the actions of this Dai Rong Princess beforehand, his Duo Han wasn't the most horrid subordinate country in the hearts of the people of Da Long. It seemed that he should be grateful to this beautiful princess.
Dai Rong saw the smug smile on Ah Ji Ka's face and a grimace appeared on her own. She raised her head to look at the Emperor and Empress sitting at the top of the nine jade stairs. It was these two people who made her understand what was really regret, what was fear and what was prosperity.
At last, her gaze landed on He Heng's smiling face. To this young emperor, her heart had really moved. Humane, kind, charismatic, and full of true love for the Empress. But it was a pity that the true love didn't belong to her.
Tu Er saw his meimei was still gazing at the Emperor of Da Long and demanded with a frown: "Meimei, haven't you given up yet?"
Dai Rong grimaced: "There's no giving up. From beginning to end, he never even properly looked at me." It was this man who made her understand that not everyone loved her. Maybe the reason that the people of the country of Jing loved her that much, aside from her beauty, was her identity.
She was a princess of the country of Jing. Even if she might not be the future ruler of Jing, but she was still a hope for the future of Jing. She received their devotions but what she had wanted was the prosperity of Da Long. If the people of the country of Jing knew of her actions, how disappointed would they be?
She should be grateful to the Empress of Da Long. If it wasn't for this exceptional Empress, she might not be able to sit in this hall, and the country of Jing would be expecting the iron hoof of Da Long.
Stupidity once in a lifetime was enough. Her position didn't allow for her to keep being stupid, and even more, continue to make mistakes. Otherwise, the result might be the damnation of Jing.
"This subject toasts the honorable Empress a cup, and wishes for the Empress and Emperor's love to be stronger than gold and everything be smooth," Dai Rong stood and raised a winecup at Qu Qing Ju, "This subject is grateful for the honorable Empress for giving this subject the chance to grow up. Please, Empress, receive this subject's sincere bow." She made a bow towards Qu Qing Ju that in Jing, carried the meaning of goodwill and respect, and then drained the wine.
Qu Qing Ju looked at Dai Rong below. In just a few days, this Hu Guo Princess had rapidly grown up. She couldn't see a hint of the past self. It was like a fragile and spoiled girl had become a strong woman. Not many people could make such a change. Was it Qin Bai Lu's death that shocked her awake? Or was it the lives of the people of the country of Jing that made her understood what was responsibility?
But no matter what, Qu Qing Ju accepted Dai Rong's toast. She smiled and raised a winecup, responding: "Every person has a time when they are wrong. The crucial part is whether or not they could turn back, if they could understand. Ben gong hopes for the friendship between Da Long and the country of Jing to continue for a long time, and the people of Jing to live long and secure lives."
"Many thanks for the lucky words of the honorable Empress. My Jing, generation after generation, will always be loyal to Da Long!" Dai Rong's eyes became red. She knew that this was the Empress promising that Da Long wouldn't send soldiers into Jing. She switched for another cup of wine and unhesitatingly drank it down.
On the day the envoys left, the autumn winds were blowing and wild chrysanthemums were blooming all over the suburbs of the city of Jing. Qu Qing Ju and He Heng stood on the tall city gates, watched as the envoys made a three bow nine kowtow greeting to them before gradually leaving in the carriages. The carriages slowly went further away, and disappeared into the horizon.
Qu Qing Ju brushed aside the hair that had been blown free by the wind. She sighed, stating: "The song ends, people leave, flowers blooming over the entire city so it isn't that lonely."
He Heng saw her expression was slightly depressed and held her hand to lead her down off the tower: "Some people leave, some come. It's all good when we are still at the original place."
Qu Qing Ju turned to look at him, a clean smile at the corner of her lips. It was faint, but very real.
[i] 人彘: The "human swine" is the story of the Consort Qi. Emperor Gaozu, the founder of the Han Dynasty was extremely favoured and her son a contender for the throne. Consort Qi tried to persuade the Emperor many times to crown her son and her ambitions were well known. Empress Lu (who also had a son) was her opponent. In the end, the court supported Empress Lu's son who succeeded the throne and Prince Ruyi had to leave for his own lands as wang. However, Empress Lu, now Grand Empress Lu, wanted mother and son dead. Her own son, the new Emperor, kept his brother, Prince Ruyi, with him constantly to prevent his mother from putting in poison or assassination attempts but ultimately failed. Then the Grand Empress chopped off Consort Qi's limbs, took out her eyes, sliced off her ears, and ruined her voice before putting her in a latrine.