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The Empress also felt that too much water had been consumed, but it seemed as though it had all be drank by Feng Zhaolian. She had just held it in her hands to keep up appearances. When it got cold, Fang Yi would replace it with hot tea. In total, she only took three sips. Who could have thought that Feng Zhaolian would be so direct?
She helplessly said: “Who told you to drink so much on your own.”
Feng Zhaolian slapped his thigh: “I say, you really do say some pretty entertaining things for an empress. Dragging me out in the middle of the night to sit here and not giving me anything aside from tea, what else can I do? In any case, couldn’t you give me a pastry to eat? Also, if I don’t drink tea, I would feel sleepy! You might have something on your mind and can’t sleep, but my mind is crystal clear!”
The Empress felt a little on the verge of collapse. Feng Zhaolian looked like a beautiful lady with heavenly beauty. Who knew just how many times more beautiful he was than the Feng family’s Feng Chenyu, but this person was not a real woman. When he wanted to, he could put on quite a good act, but once outsiders left, he would reveal his original personality! Just like that thigh slap, it was truly… to masculine.
“Is your mind really clear?” Though she had her complaints, the Empress was not the type of person to neglect interviewing Feng Zhaolian because of some of his personality issues. She just asked him: “If it really is clear, why have you come to my Jing Ci Palace and refused to leave?”
With Feng Zhaolian having requested it, Fang Yi really brought over quite a few pastries. He was also extremely hungry, saying while eating: “Whether or not I leave is not directly connected to whether or not my mind is clear. My matter has been dragged out for so many years that I have already gotten used to it. That’s why it doesn’t really bother me that much. At most, I will just think about it occasionally. Why has that person still not come to look for you? Or to take a look around Jing Ci Palace to see whether or not the person looking for you has already come, and they’re merely hiding and have not taken the initiative to take the first move.”
“Then have you found them?” The Empress could not get interested in this topic in the slightest, and it seemed like she was forcing her questions out.
Feng Zhaolian had a look of regret and shook his head: “Don’t worry. There really isn’t anyone in Jing Ci Palace, but as for the area around Jing Ci Palace, I really have not had the time to carefully check.”
The Empress laughed, “What is there for this One to feel at ease about? If they come, that’s fine. If they don’t come, that’s also fine. Either way, that’s just life. There are times when I hope that they will act quicker. The sooner that this matter comes up, the sooner it can be resolved. It will also save me from spending my days on edge and being threatened by others.”
“That person can’t threaten you anymore, right?” Feng Zhaolian smiled and said: “That person is climbing high and fast. In just the blink of an eye, she climbed into the imperial bed, but what about you? Your Highness the Empress, how many years has it been since you have last enjoyed being favored?”
The Empress’ face turned red from what he had said, but there was nothing that she could say to refute it. She merely said: “Then just let her continue climbing. This One wants to see if there will come a day when she will climb above this One.”
The two just sat opposite each other from dusk until the sun came up. This continued until Feng Zhaolian could not longer endure and fell asleep. Only then did the Empress call for someone to bring him back to his bedchamber. She, however, continued to sit there without moving.
Fang Yi knew that the Empress was thinking about something, and she could not help but advise: “Your Highness, don’t worry so much. His Majesty favoring any member of the imperial harem is an extremely normal thing. Even if there is no Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu today, was there not Imperial Concubine Yun before? As this servant sees it, His Majesty’s favor being shared is a good thing. If it was just kept by Imperial Concubine Yun alone, that would mean that his heart would not contain anyone else! It’s possible that with Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu starting things off, from this day forward, the inner palace will return to how it was 20 years earlier, returning to normal.”
The Empress heard this and laughed bitterly, “Return to normal, huh? How could that be possible? This One understands him too well. Now, even he is not normal. How can you rely on this inner palace being normal?”
Fang Yi was startled then said: “Your Highness means…”
“Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu used special methods to get to her position. His Majesty’s current favor for her does not come from his heart.” She spoke with absolute confidence, “Although this One still does not know what special methods were used, whether he was drugged or something, this One can guarantee that His Majesty has definitely been fallen for one of Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu’s schemes.” After she finished speaking, she stood up and tiredly said: “Alright, that’s enough. Help this One get washed up and changed. This One will sleep for a while.”
Though she said sleep, how could she possibly fall asleep while lying in bed? It had been over 20 years! The man that she loved had finally broken a peace that had lasted over 20 years at a time like this. In Zhao He Hall, a member of the imperial harem had finally spent the night. Unfortunately, it had not been her, nor had it been Imperial Concubine Yun.
Everyone knew that the Empress was the Emperor’s best collaborator. Over the many years, she had accompanied him in putting on many performances and had many tacit understandings. They had never lost control. She had always believed that those sorts of days would continue like that until a day came when that person came to visit. The Emperor would then follow up on this lead and catch the remnants of a disposed party, turning around and chasing her from the position of empress. With that, her life would come to an end.
Regardless of why the old emperor allowed her to remain in the position of empress, whether he found their partnership to truly be joyous, whether he felt that she had done a good job of managing the inner palace, or whether she was just being used as bait, she had accepted it all. She loved that person. She loved him so much that she was willing to do anything for him. She was even perfectly happy with accompanying the Emperor in “fishing.” Unfortunately, all of this balance had finally been broken in one day and one night.
The Empress closed her eyes, and her mind was filled with images of Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu being favored in Zhao He Hall. This agitated her heart and lungs and gave her a headache.
Speaking of a headache, aside from the Empress, there was one more outside the Imperial Palace. That person was Imperial Concubine Yun.
The beauty slept until half-past ten in the morning. After sitting up, her head hurt so much that it felt as though there was someone pinching stuff inside. She bitterly held her head and wailed a bit. Servants immediately lifted the curtain and quietly said: “Madam, have you woken up?”
Imperial Concubine Yun was stunned and subconsciously asked: “What did you call this One?” Looking up at the servant who spoke, uh… she was not one of Winter Moon Palace’s servants, but she was not unfamiliar. In the past, she had taken care of her. After thinking a bit… oh! Was this not one of the Chun Palace’s servants? “What? Has Hua’er gone into the palace?”
The servant quickly said: “Replying to madam, it’s not that His Highness the seventh prince entered the palace. It’s that you’ve come out of the palace. His Highness said that it’s not good to continue referring to you the same way as in the Imperial Palace, thus we have followed the old rules and called you madam.”
“Oh.” Imperial Concubine Yun nodded her head in a daze. After thinking a bit, it seemed as though it was her Ming’er and A-Heng who had entered the palace. They had said that they would bring her out of the palace and send her to the Chun Palace. In the end, how exactly did she get out? Why was it that she had no impression of leaving the palace? “Go and call Hua’er in for me.” Since there was no need to follow the Imperial Palace’s rules, that was better. It would save her the need to keep saying this One, again and again. Repeatedly saying it made her feel annoyed.
The servant was very obedient and immediately went to call Xuan Tianhua. When Xuan Tianhua entered the room, Imperial Concubine Yun was seated on the bed with a blank expression. He dismissed the servant and quickly went over, calling out: “Mother, just how much wine did you drink last night? When Ming’er and younger sister brought you to the residence, you were so drunk that you were passed out.”
“Hm?” Imperial Concubine Yun looked at him and tilted her head to think, “I drank a lot of wine? Oh, I did drink a lot of wine, but that sort of wine does not have much of an effect. How could I possibly have been passed out?”
Xuan Tianhua very seriously nodded, “Indeed, you were passed out. It was such that Ming’er and younger sister expended quite a bit of effort to get mother out of the palace.”
“Since you insist on using this sort of excuse to explain it, I figure I will just accept it! But Hua’er, I will tell you that I am not so muddled as to be forgetting things. I am very clear about how much wine I drank. I can even recall that I suddenly felt dizzy after returning to my bedchamber in Winter Moon Palace. Can you explain to me why I suddenly became dizzy?”
Xuan Tianhua felt bitter on the inside but still said: “It’s just that the wine suddenly rushed up, causing you to feel dizzy.”
“Tsk.” Imperial Concubine Yun rolled her eyes, “Let’s just go with what you guys said! Either way, I am less and less able to control you kids. You bully me as I grow old, hiding everything from me.”
“Mother is not old in the slightest.” Xuan Tianhua was speaking the truth, “It’s just that the palace has not been very peaceful recently. Though we are still unable to say for certain what will happen, to allow mother to continue living in the palace, we feel a little easy. Just settle down and live here for a bit. If Father Emperor asks, Ming’er and I will handle it.”
“Don’t worry, the old man won’t ask about me anymore.” Imperial Concubine Yun shrugged, as the corners of her lips curled into a smile full of sarcasm, “He has people at his side taking care of him. He is very happy! How could he have the time to think about me. If I already knew that such a day would come, I would have left the palace over 20 years ago, but…” After she said this, she sighed, “If I was not in the palace, your and Ming’er’s life would be much more difficult. That’s why, thinking about it some more, forget it, I would still stay in the palace. At worst, I would just refuse to meet him. Hua’er, say, is it because I always refused to see him that he… changed?” While Imperial Concubine Yun spoke, she began to descend into her recollections, immediately thinking back to their time living in the mountains. She immediately remembered the 20 years that she had spent in the palace. She then shook her head and said to herself: “That’s not right, it’s impossible that he would change like this.”
Xuan Tianhua was distressed. Holding Imperial Concubine Yun’s hand, he wanted to provide her with a bit of comfort, but when he opened his mouth, he did not know what he should say. Between Imperial Concubine Yun and the Emperor, whether it was arguing or kind feelings, it was always a matter between the two of them. Yet now, Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu had come out of nowhere. How could Imperial Concubine Yun possibly feel good about this? This woman was unwilling to see the Emperor for over 20 years, but as a son, he understood very well that Imperial Concubine Yun thought about the Emperor. It was just that she had a bit of an awkward personality. Now…
“Ming’er and I analyzed it, and there is something strange about this. We fear that Father Emperor has been coerced by Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu and old eighth.” He stuck to the facts and said: “Though we are still unable to find out where the coercion is coming from, we are certain of its existence. Mother must not think too much. This matter cannot be decided based on personal feelings. I fear that it will become a disaster that will implicate all of Da Shun. We must be cautious.”
Imperial Concubine Yun calmed her thoughts and reined in the thoughts that she should not have. She knew that Xuan Tianhua was correct. At present, the situation was unsteady, and the inner palace was not at peace. Da Shun looked to be quite calm on the surface, but it was actually in danger from all sides. She still had two sons. She must not become a burden to them at a time like this.
“I know.” Imperial Concubine Yun said to Xuan Tianhua: “You two can go and do what you need to do. I will just wait here in the residence. I just won’t go anywhere.”
Because the eighth prince had suddenly been absolved, the capital became filled with a growing movement…
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