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!”
“Silence!” Gong Yi Mo yelled out suddenly. Without sparing Gong Jue a glance, Gong Yi Mo walked straight towards the raging emperor.
Emperor Gong’s expression was currently twisted in fury so she approached him vigilantly. She gently patted him to appease his temper and asked, “Father Emperor, who has provoked your anger?”
“Who else?” he shouted. When he turned to see who spoke, his eyes blinked in surprise to find his favored little princess. As he gathered his thoughts, the emperor’s expression slightly relaxed, but he still continued to glare at Gong Jue. How did he not discover before that this quiet boy was actually one who spoke back so viciously!
Gong Yi Mo smiled patiently as she spoke to appease the emperor. After calming her prideful father, she turned to the crowd and asked with a cold voice, “How did this matter start? State your reasons!”
The people who knelt upon the ground stared at one another, until finally a eunuch dressed in a green uniform knelt before the princess and said, “Chaoyang Princess, I am the servant who serves the Fourteenth Prince. Princess, please serve justice to those responsible.”
Gong Yi Mo glanced at Gong Jue who avoided her gaze and lowered his head. She turned back to the servant. “Explain yourself.”
The eunuch lowered his head and cleared his throat. “The Fourteenth Prince is immature because of his young age. When he saw the wooden carvings in the Ninth Prince’s hands, he merely gave a few jokes, but the Ninth Prince suddenly retaliated and injured the young Prince!”
“Oh?” Gong Yi Mo looked to the Fourteenth Prince with undisguised dislike. “I wonder what did the Fourteenth Prince say?”
Her words caused the crowd to quiet down; there was obvious anger in her tone.
The palace eunuch trembled as he nervously said, “The Ninth Prince carved a wooden figure whose face appeared very similar to your Highness. And so the F-Fourteenth prince said…he said–”
At this time the eunuch dropped even lower to the ground and cowered before Gong Yi Mo. “Princess please forgive this sin. It was all because the Fourteenth Prince had disrespected you that the Ninth Prince had broken out in anger.”
He continued, “But even if the Ninth Prince was angry, was there a reason for him to injure the Fourteenth Prince? How could he shed blood when they are brothers! He dealt with him too harshly!”
The eunuch lifted his head warily at the princess and said, “But the Fourteenth Prince merely pointed out that the Ninth Prince seems to have strange affections towards your Highness, Chaoyang Princess. Such an affection towards a princess, and his sister at that, will disrupt the court order. Therefore, the Fourteenth Prince spoke for the sake of the princess’ honor. So why should the Ninth Prince retaliate?”
After hearing such an extraordinary claim from the eunuch, the crowd hushed down in silence. While his words accused the young prince, his words were actually targeting Gong Yi Mo’s reputation!
Both Gong Yi Mo and Emperor Gong knew that she was not related by blood to their royalty; everyone else at that courtyard had no knowledge of this fact. To them, Gong Jue’s intimacy towards Gong Yi Mo was a crime of disrupting the court order. Since they were siblings, it was only expected that Emperor Gong would punish the prince who harbored unusual affections towards her.
However, she was not truly the emperor’s daughter. With such complications, it was no wonder the emperor burst out into anger and had tossed the wooden figurine resembling Gong Yi Mo on the ground. Gong Yi Mo sighed, her heart filled with displeasure. She wondered which people had schemed such a method without even hesitating to use the Fourteenth Prince as a cannon fodder.
“Your claims are utter nonsense!”
Gong Yi Mo pretended as if she was filled with rage. She gave an ugly scowl and pointed a trembling finger to the kneeling eunuch. “What else do you have to say?” the princess said in a loud voice. “What other slander do you have arranged?”
Seeing her anger, the crowd knelt even lower in fear. “The Princess is angry!”
Gong Yi Mo turned to the emperor while pointing to the wooden figurine on the floor. “Father Emperor, just now did you throw that wooden figurine, merely because you believed a boy’s slander? Do you believe that I and my brother would dare to disrupt order in the court?”
Her eyes were filled with disappointment. The emperor couldn’t help but feel guilty towards her, but he knew the truth. Gong Yi Mo was not his child. He would never tell her this until his death!
Her hurt gaze pierced the emperor’s heart. Her words trembled as she gave a cynical smile, “It’s ridiculous, simply ridiculous. Me towards Gong Jue? That’s ridiculous!”
Even though she said these it mockingly, her expression was dark and gloomy. She said solemnly to the emperor, “Father…do you know what kind of place is the Cold Palace?”
Emperor Gong turned to her, not knowing why she had brought up such a topic.
“The Cold Palace…is a place where one is imprisoned for life. When I was only three years of age, I was already residing in the Cold Palace. Four years later, I was still left alone in that place, wondering what wrong I had committed to be detained there. Does no one love me? Was it really my own father who sent me to be trapped in this place? On several occasions, I felt as if I could die, but no one was willing to take care of me.”
The emperor faced her straightforward accusations; although she spoke solemnly, he could hear the apparent sadness in her voice. He never considered how she had suffered as a child all those years. This idea caused the man unbearable guilt. He didn’t know how to explain to her his decision at that time.
Gong Yi Mo once again turned to glare at Gong Jue’s accusers. As her chilly eyes swept the hall, the people couldn’t help but bow their heads lower. Finally her gaze rested upon Gong Jue and she said in a quiet voice, slowly speaking, “Father, do you know what kind of person the Ninth Prince is to me?”
A glint flashed across the emperor’s eyes as he turned to look at Gong Yi Mo in curiosity. She laughed and replied, “At that time, I was diagnosed with pneumonia and all the servants abandoned caring for me. Only my six-year-old brother, Gong Jue, didn’t fear my sickness and moved his residence next to mine. Later when I had almost starved near death, he went to steal food to share it with me! Only for a small amount of food, he was humiliated and beaten until he was almost half dead! The cold palace was so vast and lonely. He was the only would was kind to me and stood by me those years.”
Her eyes expressed such a gentle gaze that Gong Jue couldn’t help but look up to her. But then, recalling his mother, Gong Jue looked away in silence as he felt shame.
Gong Yi Mo continued, “After I fell ill, I fortuitously found a chance to learn a martial art known as the Wind and Nature Arts which could improve my health. It is a cultivation using swordsmanship to increase internal strength. Eventually I and Gong Jue learned this martial art together to protect ourselves while we lived in the Cold Palace.
“For me, not only is he my beloved brother, he is also my closest friend! Because he was the only one beside me, he was forced to play all the roles around me! In the Cold Palace, we lived and bathed together and when it rained, we huddled together at his palace. The rainwater would leak through the roof and drench our sheets, but still we shared a bed and slept together. We ate the same cold meals and dishes. We wiped our dirty faces with the same cloth. For such an intimacy between brother and sister, would you sentence me to drown in a pig’s cage?”**
(**ed: Drowned in a Pig’s cage 浸猪笼–ancient form of lynching that ties up the offender within a pig’s cage made of bamboo, before immersing the cage into water to drown the criminal. Commonly used in ancient times on women who were defiled by other men before or after marriage)
Gong Jue shouted in a hoarse voice. He never expected that the tie between them had already run so deep.
Gong Yi Mo paid no heed to him, but instead, stared coldly at the embarrassed Emperor Gong.
“Not only did I teach Gong Jue much of his knowledge, I also urged him to practice martial arts. I was by his side whenever he became sick. For him, I was his sister, his friend, and also his mother!
“Since my birthday is approaching, he asked me what I wanted. I told him that as long as he was careful and safe, this was a good enough present for me!”
Gong Yi Mo then turned solemn. “But his affection for me is actually being distorted by those around him. Father Emperor, I would like to ask you. Since I was thrown into the Cold Palace without a mother, a playmate, or even a teacher, is it wrong for me to value him?”
Gong Yi Mo stood firmly before the emperor. Her long dress fluttered in the wind, while the gold embroidery on her skirt reflected a dazzling light. She faced the emperor and loudly said, “For me, it doesn’t matter if Gong Jue beats someone, or even if he kills the Fourteenth Prince, I will still stand by his side!”