The Rebirth of an Ill-Fated Consort - Chapter 158
Chapter 158: 158
Chapter 158 : The Curtain Falls
The Emperor’s expression was inscrutable as he asked, “What did you discover?”
The Crown Prince simply smiled and looked at Xia Qing to say, “Divine Physician Xia, kindly tell Imperial Father what you have discovered.”
With clasped hands, Xia Qing quickly moved to greet the Emperor respectfully before saying, “To respond to Your Majesty, when this commoner observed the corpse of Princess He Yi, I found that the corpse’s expression was slightly off, there was something strange about the livor mortis, and the corpse’s colour was even more peculiar. Those who practise medicine must be scrupulously attentive to detail and must not make even the smallest of mistakes. Although Princess He Yi was a member of the imperial family, normally it would be overstepping boundaries for this commoner to look closely at the corpse, but one cannot be the slightest bit careless in handling matters. For medical practitioners, it is especially taboo to miss the big picture by focusing only on one aspect, and so this commoner was so bold as to take a good look at the corpse. From this, this commoner discovered that Princess He Yi’s lips were bluish-black, there were small rashes on her body, her four limbs were not stiff, and her hair was matted together . . .”
 管中窥豹 (guan zhong kui bao) – lit. to look at a leopard through a narrow tube (and therefore see only one aspect of it). fig. to miss the big picture.
This man was clearly obsessed with medicine, long-windedly spouting a heap of phrases which the entire hall could not make head nor tail of. Xia Qing himself was unaware of the situation, describing the symptoms with gusto and deadly earnestness. Even the Emperor’s face betrayed his growing impatience. Finally, after Xia Qing had finished detailing all his doubts about Princess He Yi’s corpse, he said, “From these observations, this commoner knows that Princess He Yi used a kind of ‘Xian Ji Powder’. This powder is colourless and odourless, and once ingested and activated by burning spiced incense, it is possible to preserve the freshly-deceased appearance of a corpse. When this commoner smelled the fragrance of the incense on Princess He Yi’s corpse, this commoner came to the conclusion that ‘Xian Ji Powder’ was used on her.”
 鲜肌散 (xian ji san) – lit. fresh/bright flesh powder.
“Rubbish!” Imperial Consort Shu burst out. “What Xian Ji Powder, He Yi was clearly murdered by Jiang Ruan!”
“Imperial Consort, please don’t be too hasty,” Xia Qing said. With grave composure, he continued, “This commoner knew that this was fishy, and used the method Master taught to purge the Xian Ji Powder from Princess He Yi’s corpse. After the removal of that drug which hid the truth from our eyes, the corpse could no longer lie, and the true time of death was revealed. This commoner observed that Princess He Yi’s wound had turned green, and gauging the time, the time of death was at least a day earlier than the time determined by the coroner.”
As soon as these words were uttered, Golden Throne Hall erupted into chaos.
Xia Qing’s words intimated that Princess He Yi had died long before Jiang Ruan went to Mu Feng Pavilion. If this was the case, the murder charge against Jiang Ruan had no basis at all; on the contrary, what Xuan Pei and the Crown Prince had just said was true. Moreover, on thinking further about what Xuan Pei had said, that the palace maids had brought Princess He Yi to Mu Feng Pavilion and Xuan Lang had also been present- why else would he be with Princess He Yi’s corpse? Wasn’t it highly likely that Princess He Yi had been killed by him, and this situation was his grand performance to cover up his crime and shift the blame to someone else?
 贼喊捉贼 (zei han zhuo zei) – lit. a thief yelling “catch the thief”. Fig. to accuse somebody of a theft and try to sneak away oneself / to cover up one’s misdeeds by shifting the blame onto others.
Xuan Lang’s expression had changed drastically. The appearances of the Crown Prince and Xuan Pei had truly come out of nowhere, sending his mind into some disarray. Furthermore, the unexpected appearance of Xia Qing had completely derailed his plans. After all, Xuan Lang was not very smart, and had always relied on Xuan Li to back him up in the palace. Who knew that an estrangement would arise between him and Xuan Li such that, at present, Xuan Li clearly intended to look on without lifting a finger. Xuan Lang was in turmoil; he could not think of any way out. He could only say, futilely, “No, you’re lying. I saw Princess He Yi die by her hand with my own eyes. Before then Princess He Yi was still fine!”
Imperial Consort Shu still remained suspicious of Xia Qing’s statement. She was no divine physician, and naturally had not seen anything amiss with Princess He Yi’s corpse. From the beginning, she had thought that this was all Jiang Ruan’s doing, and thus wholeheartedly wished for Jiang Ruan’s death. Who could have imagined that Xia Qing would suddenly come out with such a testimony? If what Xia Qing said was true, that Princess He Yi had died a day before the incident at Mu Feng Pavilion, then who was the actual killer? Although Imperial Consort Shu loathed Jiang Ruan because of Princess He Yi, she was unwilling to let her own daughter’s actual killer go unpunished, and she could not accept this feeling of having been deceived. Immediately, her eyebrows stood up stiffly and she said, loudly, “Xia Qing, is what you said true?”
“Of course it’s true.” Although Xia Qing was slightly miffed at being questioned thus, he still answered evenly, “Although this commoner has wandered all over the land, the medical centre at Jinling has been established for many years, and not once has anyone cast aspersions on it. Therefore, this commoner would never do anything to ruin its reputation. This commoner has already examined Princess He Yi’s corpse and removed that drug. If Imperial Consort Shu does not believe me, call in the coroners and imperial physicians to examine the corpse and ascertain if this commoner’s words are true or false.”
The Jinling Divine Physician was well known throughout the Great Jin dynasty, and his words, among the doctors of the Great Jin, were regarded as gems of wisdom. Who would doubt his diagnosis? If one had doubts, then one would be at odds with all the medical practitioners in the Great Jin. Xia Qing was a straightforward person with a moral character which was held in high esteem. No one would doubt any of his words.
The Crown Prince added, “Imperial Father, this subject has already asked the Imperial Physician Office and the Palace Coroners to re-examine the corpse, and it is just as Divine Physician Xia has said, Princess He Yi died before the day she was at Mu Feng Pavilion.”
The Emperor’s expression shifted slightly. Empress Dowager Yi De gradually withdrew her hands which she had tucked into her sleeves and said coolly, while leisurely stroking her ruby nail guards, “Fourth Prince, what else do you have to say?”
“No, no . . .” Xuan Lang was completely caught off guard by Xia Qing’s move, and even thinking of some kind of comeback now was difficult. The Emperor surveyed him with deep intent in his eyes, causing Xuan Lang to quake in fear and trepidation. He had strategised for so long, pretended to be cowardly and timid for so long, and the achievement of his goal had been in sight. Could it be that, today, all his hard work would go up in smoke?
“Fourth Brother, this prince knows that you admire Hong’an Junzhu, but even so, you should not have resorted to such underhanded means.” The Crown Prince smiled faintly and said, “Moreover, at this moment, Deputy General Jiang is fighting for his life at the front lines. That you would not hesitate to attempt to frame Hong’an Junzhu is truly too despicable.”
This sentiment was better left unspoken. Once said, everyone immediately made the association to Jiang Xin Zhi’s situation. Just now, Xuan Pei’s words had indicated that Xuan Lang was taking advantage of Princess He Yi’s death to force Jiang Ruan to marry him. If everything was going smoothly, why would there be a need for a forced marriage? If all this had truly been in order to win the beauty, wherein everything would be ruined if he failed, then the losses would far outweigh the gains, especially when one added in the situation with Princess He Yi. However, if the real objective was the military power in Jiang Xin Zhi’s hands . . . then, all of this made sense.
Although Jiang Xin Zhi’s situation was uncertain at present, if he were to advance, that would garner him tremendous merit, while if he were to retreat, Xuan Lang might be in a position to take over his military power. In any case, marrying Jiang Ruan would be a good deal. If Xuan Lang were thinking this way, everything would make sense. Those who understood the situation this way could not help but sigh in lament. Every day, they would watch this incompetent Fourth Prince follow the Crown Prince like a shadow; no one imagined that he would be so ambitious and scheming. He was truly despicable.
Xuan Lang stared at the Crown Prince in fury, and the Crown Prince smiled back at him. Ever since Jiang Ruan had cautioned him about Xuan Lang, although the Crown Prince was not very smart, he was also not someone who would allow others in the palace to trample on him, and he especially detested people who deceived or betrayed others. He admitted that he was affectionate towards Xuan Lang, but who knew that his investigations would unearth the secret, deep alliance between Xuan Lang and Xuan Li. When he thought about how Xuan Lang had originally played the part of the loving and respectful younger brother, the Crown Prince felt as disgusted as if he had swallowed a fly. Moreover, several inexplicable events which had taken place in earlier years were confirmed to have been due to Xuan Lang’s behind-the-scenes machinations. The Crown Prince had long been enraged with Xuan Lang, and took the opportunity today to beat him down, even to the point of death. As they say, one reaps what one sows. If Xuan Lang had shown some sincerity in his attitude towards the Crown Prince, he would not have found himself so utterly isolated today.
Almost immediately, the Commander-in-chief, Gu Daren, entered to present his report. “Reporting to Your Majesty, this official has discovered pieces of bloodstained clothes in a disused well on the palace grounds, and has verified that these were worn by Princess He Yi.”
If Jiang Ruan had really killed Princess He Yi, she had been witnessed in the act by Xuan Lang. Where would she have the time to strip off Princess He Yi’s clothes, run to the disused well several miles away and discard them there?
The Crown Prince shook his head and said, “Fourth Brother, it’s not that this prince wants to criticise you, but killing your own meimei just because of Hong’an Junzhu is really inexcusable. This prince knows that you and Imperial Consort Shu are very close. When you were young, whenever you made a mistake, it was always Imperial Consort Shu who spoke on your behalf before Imperial Father. But now that you’ve killed Princess He Yi like this, how much sorrow must Imperial Consort Shu be experiencing. Look, she trusts you so much that she never doubted you at all.”
As soon as he said this, Imperial Consort Shu’s expression changed greatly, and Xuan Lang froze in place.
What the Crown Prince said was indeed true. Imperial Consort Chen was gentle in appearance but arrogant in reality, and she normally kept her distance from the other three imperial consorts. Imperial Consort Shu was arrogant and wilful and had no sons, so she did not present much of a threat. Moreover, the Emperor had doted on her for some time. In the past, Xuan Lang had carefully tried to win the favour of Imperial Consort Shu, hoping that she would put in a word for him with the Emperor.
With the Crown Prince’s words today, everyone’s criticism would now be aimed at Imperial Consort Shu. In reality, when Imperial Consort Shu lost Princess He Yi, her first reaction was to target Jiang Ruan, which was evidence of her total trust in Xuan Lang’s words. Was there an inside story to why Imperial Consort Shu and Xuan Lang were so close? Once ambition reared its head in the inner palace, matters would be conducted in an extremely fearful manner. Was it possible that Imperial Consort Shu was already aware of Princess He Yi’s death, but was working with Xuan Lang to compel Jiang Ruan to marry him? For what purpose? Clearly, it was because Imperial Consort Shu was sonless; in the end, Princess He Yi was only a daughter. If Xuan Lang were to hold power in future, if he were actually able to secure that position, then Imperial Consort Shu would also be able to get a share of the pie.
The Emperor’s heart was especially sensitive about such things. Hardly had the words been spoken than the Emperor’s gaze was directed at Imperial Consort Shu.
Although Imperial Consort Shu was arrogant and wilful within the palace, she was still deeply aware of the pros and cons of any action or behaviour. In her heart, she hated that the Crown Prince had dragged her into the muddy water even as she hastily called out loudly, “Fourth Prince, I never imagined you would hurt my He Yi even as I trusted you so much.” She looked at the Emperor while tears immediately trickled in two lines down her beautiful face and said, “Your Majesty, you must render justice on behalf of this concubine!”
This was obviously an attempt to suppress Xuan Lang. Only in this way could she shut everyone’s mouths, and show clearly that she and Xuan Lang had not colluded in any way. Thus far, Xuan Lang had found himself without a single ally.
The Emperor called out in agitated fury, “Guards! Take Fourth Prince away to the Ministry of Justice prison. This case will be heard tomorrow!”
“No, Imperial Father, it wasn’t me . . .” Xuan Lang heard this statement pronounced before he could even think of a countermeasure. He immediately panicked and could only plead for mercy even as he voiced his grievances.
However, by this time, anything more that he had to say was too late to help him. The Crown Prince, Xuan Pei, and Xia Qing, and even Gu Daren, had almost confirmed that he was lying. Moreover, Xuan Pei’s divisive testimony had completely silenced Xuan Li at this critical time. Or, it could be that Xuan Li had never intended to help. After all, sacrificing his rook to win the game was his usual modus operandi.
Empress Dowager Yi De sighed deeply and said, “Unworthy descendants, full of nonsense.”
If news of today’s personal trial before the imperial court and the happenings within the hall were to get out, everyone would be laughing. This was a scandal involving the imperial family; what Xuan Lang had done would surely blacken the imperial family’s reputation; he had almost trampled on the Emperor’s name. Imperial Consort Shu sat limply on her chair. She had initially thought that everything was Jiang Ruan’s doing. Now that it had been confirmed that Xuan Lang was the guilty party, she loathed Xuan Lang with a passion while simultaneously being deeply worried about her own future.
Princess He Yi had already died. She had been in the palace for so many years, but she had been unable to bear more children. Moreover, with newcomers about to enter the palace, what of the Emperor’s favour was there left for her to gain? She had no backer to rely on, and the Emperor now viewed her with some suspicion. Imperial Consort Chen, who was doted upon by the Emperor so extensively at the beginning, almost to the point where one could say she possessed half the Emperor’s heart, who was the darling of the Emperor’s harem – so what? If he said she was to be sent to the Cold Palace, to the Cold Palace she would go. This special favour of the Emperor, so bright and shiny, how long could it last?
Perhaps she and Imperial Consort Chen would meet very soon in the Cold Palace. The corners of Imperial Consort Shu’s mouth suddenly lifted up in a faint smile as an indescribable pain seized her. She once again cast Jiang Ruan a profound look. If today’s happenings were not evidence of there being someone secretly helping Jiang Ruan, she had indeed lived in vain for all these years. Such an insignificant di daughter of the Jiang family, how had she contrived to make use of so many people to act on her behalf? Looking at today’s situation, it had been a waterproof plan. Without any traces (back to Jiang Ruan), the final objective had been achieved. Her life was truly blessed.
A personal trial before the imperial court had come to this stage; it could be said that the curtain had fallen on this scene unceremoniously. All these turbulent undercurrents had been exposed for all the officials to see, and this would undoubtedly give rise to a considerable storm in the imperial court thereafter. Perhaps there would be a reformation of factions, or people would renounce their past evil and seek a better path, but those were matters for the future.
Once Xuan Lang had been taken away, the Emperor’s complexion was as gloomy as a cloud about to rain. He announced that he would retire and left, supported by Eunuch Li. Empress Dowager Yi De pondered briefly, but only instructed Yang gugu to inform Jiang Ruan to return later before leaving for Ci Ning Palace.
The officials slowly trickled out. Xiao Shao strode over the Jiang Ruan and gave her a once over before asking, with a frown, “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” Jiang Ruan shook her head, and her gaze fell upon Xuan Pei, who was standing to one side smiling at her. After a pause, she walked over towards him, stood firmly before him and said, “What did you do?”
Xuan Pei merely smiled at her. This child had been born beautiful, and with this careless, dazzling smile, without an ounce of guile, where had the calm and steady person from just before gone? He gave the vague impression of an innocent child who was acting cute for his mother. Mother?
Jiang Ruan was slightly dazed as she felt that time had flown backwards, bringing her back to the time in the palace in her previous life, when mother and child had laughed and chatted gaily. When Xuan Pei smiled so adorably like this, his face was bright and beautiful.
“Junzhu once rescued me from an embarrassing situation, and a droplet of grace should be returned with a gushing spring. This prince was only giving my humble effort in the hopes of helping Junzhu,” Xuan Pei said. His tone was serious, but the eyes which were looking at her unconsciously held a trace of affection.
Xiao Shao lowered his eyes. He looked at Xuan Pei thoughtfully, then frowned abruptly and pulled Jiang Ruan behind him, blocking her from Xuan Pei’s scorching gaze. Dispassionately, he stated, “Superfluous.”
Xuan Pei felt highly dissatisfied on seeing Xiao Shao’s actions. He surveyed him with some hostility and said, “What has this got to do with you?”
“She is my person, so I take care of all her affairs,” Xiao Shao replied.
When Zhao Guang, who had intended to ask Jiang Ruan about her situation, walked over and heard this statement, he almost fell over. Advancing on Xiao Shao, he whisper-yelled, “What rubbish are you spouting? You Xiao family youngster, if you utter such nonsense which damages our Ruan’er’s reputation again, don’t blame this old man for treating you discourteously!”
Xuan Pei blinked, looked at Zhao Guang, and said, sweetly, “General Zhao.”
Zhao Guang eyed Xuan Pei suspiciously. From today’s happenings, he could clearly see that Xuan Pei was intentionally trying to rescue Jiang Ruan from a sticky situation. Moreover, this Thirteenth Prince, who hardly ever featured in any form of rumour or gossip, was definitely not as simple a character as he looked. After all, Zhao Guang was a veteran of the imperial court and so had an excellent eye for people. He did not dare to treat Xuan Pei with contempt; today’s rescue of Jiang Ruan meant that he must have some plan of his own. Zhao Guang said, deferentially, “Thirteenth Prince.” His heart was still full of suspicion – why did this Xuan Pei look at their Ruan’er with eyes that were like those of a helpless baby bird? If he was lacking maternal love, he should look for the Empress or Empress Dowager. Why look to Jiang Ruan? She was still young and unmarried.
The Crown Prince had also walked over. He glanced at Jiang Ruan, then glanced at Xuan Pei meaningfully before saying, “Congratulations, Junzhu, for having survived a crisis without mishap.”
“Many thanks to Your Majesty, Crown Prince, for speaking out on the side of justice,” Jiang Ruan responded with a slight smile.”
The Crown Prince smiled and said, “No need for courtesy. If you have to thank someone, then you should thank Thirteenth Brother. Thirteenth Brother and this prince were only collaborating for a mutually beneficial objective. He is very good to you.” Having said this, he departed without looking back.
 各取所需 (gèqǔsuǒxū) – each takes what he needs (idiom).
His remarks rendered everyone a little shocked.
Xiao Shao looked over at Xia Qing, who was still standing at one side organising his medicine chest, and said, “Fifth Brother Xia.”
 五 (wu) – five, i.e., Xia Qing is the 5th of the disciples mentioned in earlier chapters.
Xia Qing was momentarily startled, as if he had only just seen Xiao Shao. He dashed over, stood in front of Xiao Shao and hollered, “Third Brother.”
The two of them had been Teacher Ba Qi’s disciples on Mt. Jianan and shared a brotherhood. Unlike Xiao Shao, whose knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine was limited to what was essential to keep someone alive, Xia Qing was a true medical scholar who had read through all of Mt. Jianan’s medical books several times. As the saying goes, Heaven rewards diligence, so Xia Qing had inherited a fine legacy.
 岐黄之术 (qi huang zhi shu) – lit. ‘The Technique of Qihuang’. This is also known as the ‘Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine’, and is the most authoritative classic of Chinese traditional medicine. ‘Huang’ refers to the Yellow Emperor, ‘Qi’ refers to Qi Bo. According to legend, the Yellow Emperor used to sit down with officials like Qi Bo (who seems to have been an expert in various fields) and Lei Gong (another significant name in Chinese medicine) and discuss medical issues such as the diagnosis and treatment of various ailments. Later generations, out of respect, associated the names of Qi Bo and the Yellow Emperor with Chinese traditional medicine.
At this moment, this baby-faced youth looked excited, but Xiao Shao said, coldly, “Why did you enter the palace?”
“The Crown Prince asked me to do so,” Xia Qing replied. “He told me that he would give me the palace’s “Shi Nan Medical Guide” as long as I entered the palace to perform an autopsy. Third Brother, don’t you know, Master says this book records the injuries and agonies experienced by the human skeleton, and it is extremely hard to find. I searched for it for so long but never laid eyes on it; who would have thought that it would be in the palace? The minute I heard the Crown Prince make this offer, I flew here as fast as I could, I had to know . . .”
Once Xia Qing started talking about medical books his words tumbled out of his mouth nineteen to the dozen, completely disregarding the astonished looks thrown his way by everyone around him. Xiao Shao cut him off to ask, “Why did the Crown Prince ask you to conduct an autopsy?”
“I don’t know,” Xia Qing replied. Looking around him, he continued, “But, Third Brother, I never imagined that you would be here too. Why don’t we call for Seventh Brother Qi and have a drink together?” It seemed that Xia Qing was the only one who was not the slightest bit affected by the atmosphere which had prevailed just recently.
Xiao Shao glanced at Jiang Ruan, who nodded minutely. Xiao Shao turned back and said, “All right.”
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