Liu Xian Fei continued to speak with a chilly tone. “In the past Xue Rong was no less spoiled than today’s Chaoyang Princess**. The emperor experienced great prosperity in those years; who did not praise him for his ambitious plans and leadership? As for the harem of three thousand, even if the emperor’s rain and dew were unevenly distributed among them, they were at least visited by His Holy Grace. But ever since Xue Rong appeared, everything changed, and the emperor slowly began to neglect the other women in his harem.
(**ed: Gong Yi Mo’s new title as a Princess)
“When Liu Xian Fei witnessed Xue Rong’s striking arrival last year, she also went mad with jealousy at Xue Rong’s treatment.”
Recalling these memories, Liu Xian Fei smiled faintly. “Xue Rong was truly an unparalleled beauty, causing enmity among the harem. Many tried to scheme against her, but all failed. The emperor’s protection was too secure, giving them no chance.”
“But as for your mother…” Liu Xian Fei’s gaze turned distant as she recalled the faint shadow of that long gone woman. Li Ching Hua–how long has it been since she last thought of this person? She will always be that graceful woman in a light colored dress, smiling gently as she held her books.
“Your mother was originally the most beloved in the harem, but later after Xue Rong’s appearance, she gradually turned silent. As time passed, she lost patience with Xue Rong and went to deal with her. The emperor had spotted her arguing fiercely with his newly favored concubine, causing his displeasure towards Li Ching Hua. Since then he never paid attention to her. No one expected that soon afterwards, Xue Rong would die of a sudden illness.
“At that time, the emperor desperately ordered a thorough investigation, where he discovered that your mother was involved in Xue Rong’s death. She was responsible for Xue Rong’s chronic poisoning!”
“Is that true?”
Gong Jue spoke anxiously as he quickly lifted his heads towards Liu Xian Fei. He looked at her with a measuring gaze as if to weigh the truth of her words. Gong Jue furrowed his brows as he thought of his mother–she was someone gentle and elegant, not someone who harbored enmity and schemed to murder human life!
Liu Xian Fei was surprised by his fierce eyes. She glared back at him coldly.
“What you say about her nature is true. Your mother enjoyed reading books. Every time she brought books to Xue Rong, the inner pages of her volumes were tainted with colorless, odorless poison…she really is a learned woman who enjoys reading. With her knowledge, even her means of murdering is brilliant. The poison she used would not be toxic if exposed to in small quantities and thus would not be easily discovered. If the emperor did not conduct the investigation in time, given one or two more days, no one would have been able to expose her crime!”
Gong Jue’s thoughts were in turmoil. So…so Father decided to use Liu Xian Fei to kill my mother? That’s why she framed mother for multiple crimes and then poisoned her to death, and…even sent me to the Cold Palace? No, no, it’s unreasonable for father to use her hand to kill.
He didn’t believe that his mother could be such a person. There is no way that he is a son of a father who would murder his own loving wife!
In truth, Liu Xian Fei did conceal part of the matter.
During the investigation, while the emperor desperately sought Xue Rong’s murderer, Liu Xian Fei happened to have a subordinate who specialized in medicine and poisons.
Indeed, the emperor could not find who was responsible for Xue Rong’s death at that time. While his investigation was ongoing, Liu Xian Fei was informed by her medical practitioner that she had detected a poisonous flower’s scent emanating from Li Ching Hua’s body. This caused her suspicion that Li shufei** was involved in Xue Rong’s death.
(**ed: shufei–concubine rank)
Liu Xian Fei pretended to befriend concubine Li Ching Hua in order to search for evidence. Only then did she find the books that were stained with poison within its pages, and reported to the emperor in the secret of the night.
The emperor was furious when he heard the matter. Liu Xian Fei volunteered to return the favor to the culprit by dealing with her in the same manner she had caused Xue Rong’s death. After making such an offer, Liu Xian Fei invited in the female medical practitioner and introduced her to the emperor. She was willing to poison Li Ching Hua for the emperor’s sake.
Emperor Gong was pleased with her offer and later called her a virtuous woman as a reward. As she schemed against Li Ching Hua and poisoned her to death, the emperor turned a blind eye.
But she would not reveal these things to Gong Jue.
“Believe it or not, when your mother Li Shufei came to me before her death, she asked me if it was the emperor’s intentions to poison her. I did not conceal anything and directly told her the truth. Afterwards she returned back to her palace as if she had lost her soul, where she had finally died that night. This concubine can swear to heaven that all of this is true!”
Gong Jue stared back hopelessly. His eyes were cold, and his heart weighed heavily.
He could not help but remember the last words that his mother said before her death.
“Do not seek revenge,” she had said twice.
The first time she said it was because of her guilt, so she would pay the price with her life.
The second time was because even if the emperor sought her death, she still loved him deeply, so she was willing to die!
“It’s just a pity that I’ll never get to see you grow up…”
Gong Jue felt as if his entire person was imprisoned in a tight cage he had no hope of escaping.
His mother was poisoned to death because she had caused Xue Rong’s demise. As a result, not just Gong Jue, but even Gong Yi Mo was abandoned sick in the Cold Palace for four years. If she knew that her plight was caused by his own mother, she would surely despise him. And abandon him too…
On his way back, Gong Jue walked aimlessly, as if he had lost his soul. For the first time in his life, he felt paralyzed and lost.
In his mind, Liu Xian Fei’s last words continued to replay.
“The Princess of Chaoyang valued you because you were the one who stood by her side in the Cold Palace for three years. But if she knew that your mother was responsible for her own mother’s death, how do you think she will think of you?”
She had laughed mockingly. “You consider yourselves an inseparable pair of brother and sister? Well then, you should hope that she never discovers that truth. You could become lifelong enemies.”
Will Sister Gong…come to hate him?
For the first time, Gong Jue stopped in front of the Taiji Palace and looked up at the brightly lit palace. He could hear Gong Yi Mo’s cheerful laughter ringing through the halls.
She was so dazzling, as if one can feel endless happiness beside her. Even the people around her couldn’t help but smile as they entered and exited the palace.
Gong Jue stood for a moment, and turned to his own Taihe Palace.
The Taihe Palace was some distance away from Taiji Palace, but Gong Jue always felt as if the travel only took a few minutes. Time seemed to flow quickly since he looked forward to seeing Sister Gong every time. However, this time as he walked back from Taiji Palace, the road seemed long and dark, and the trip seemed to last an eternity. The flames that lit up the roadside were ominous as if eager to devour passerbys. As he veered off into the thick darkness, the night seemed to engulf his person.
A few days later, Gong Yi Mo began to sense that something wasn’t right.
She has never been a person to limit someone’s freedom, so she didn’t care much if Gong Jue didn’t appear for a day or two. It was fine if people needed their own privacy. However, the fact that he didn’t appear for five days started to make her worry. Just when she thought of seeking him out, a palace servant rushed in to report.
“Terrible news, Princess!” the servant said. “ The Ninth Prince Gong Jue has wounded the Fourteenth Prince at the Imperial Academy. The emperor is interrogating them both to find out who to blame responsible.”
Gong Yi Mo suddenly stood up and hurriedly made her way to the school.
The destination was too far away from Taiji Palace where she resided. By the time Gong Yi Mo had arrived, all people at the scene were kneeling on the ground, while the emperor’s wrathful voice rang through the palace. All the onlookers looked down in silence.
Suddenly, an object was thrown in anger in the air, and Gong Yi Mo ducked to avoid it. She turned to look where it came from and saw the emperor roaring in anger at two young princes.
“It looks like you’ve become more courageous after being protected by your sister! Not only do you dare speak against me, your emperor, you even dare to spill the Fourteenth Prince’s blood. What do you have to say for yourself?!”
At this time, Gong Jue stood defiantly before the emperor with his blood-stained robes. His eyes were bloodshot and his hoarse voice was filled with hurt.
“This matter has nothing to do with Sister Gong!”