The sound of the plank hitting the flesh was not sharp or clear but rather a dull thud.

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“Your Majesty.” Liu Zhongbao stepped forward and urged: “You have been busy the whole day. You should take some rest now.”


“No need,” Emperor Longfeng stood by the window, looking at his two sons being beaten. He replied in a deep and low voice, “Zhen will watch them finish getting beaten.”


The room fell silent. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, he had returned to being the calm and wise monarch: “After they finish, send the imperial physician to treat their injuries and ensure that there are no sequelae.”


“Please do not worry, Your Majesty. This old slave has already sent people to invite the imperial physician.” Liu Zhongbao supported Emperor Longfeng.


“How much information were they able to extract from the Zheng family’s servants?” Emperor Longfeng saw his two sons being carried onto a sedan by the palace servants before closing the window.



Liu Zhongbao’s expression changed slightly as he took out two pieces of confession from his bosom: “These have not been verified by the Dragon Guards so their authenticity is unclear.”


Some servants made fake accusations against their master so he didn’t dare to guarantee how much of this shocking confession was true and how much was false. 


“Show it to zhen.” Emperor Longfeng took the confessions and read through them carefully, his expression turning darker as he read.


“In the fifth year of Longfeng, in Lingzhou…” Emperor Longfeng sneered, “Zheng family’s plan was good. No wonder they wanted to silence people.”



In the fifth year of Longfeng, in order to appease the officials and common people in the south, he sailed down there.


After that time, he gained complete control over the military power of Da Cheng and since then, Da Cheng had begun developing as he imagined it to. He never expected a conspiracy aimed at his Beloved Consort and son was being carried out there. 


“Everything was planned perfectly.” Scar repeated the same answer countless times. In just a single day, he had lost a lot of weight. Now, he looked dispirited and anxious. Whatever the Dragon Guards asked, he answered truthfully.


“In order to assassinate Su Guifei and her son, we arranged numerous flawless plans.” Scar’s voice was hoarse, filled with indescribable hatred and regret: “But in the plan I was involved in, something unexpected happened.”


“What happened?” The Commander asked.



“A child.” Scar licked his chapped lips, his tone filled with indescribable hate and regret: “A damned girl who appeared out of nowhere. She discovered our plan.”


The Commander’s grip on the brush tightened. He asked in a slightly angry tone: “So you killed her?”


Scar did not deny: “That child was exceptionally strong. She almost escaped. If she had gotten away, we would all have had to die. We had no choice but to take her life.”


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“She heard things she shouldn’t have and saw things she shouldn’t have.” Scar’s face showed no remorse when he spoke of the little girl he had murdered: “Unfortunately, we could not kill her with a single blow. We had to tie her up, gag her, and throw her into the river.”


“You beast!” The Commander couldn’t bear it anymore. The brush in his hand broke and picked up the thorned whip hanging on the wall. It came down on Scar fiercely: “You should have just killed her with one blow.”


In that cold weather, with bound hands and feet, rendered unable to cry out, how much pain and despair did that child experience before she died?


“My Lord, for people like us who had been bought at a young age, do we have any choice?” Scar’s body convulsed in pain. He looked at the furious Commander: “When I entered the Marquis residence back then, I was even younger than that drowned girl. Who has ever pitied us?”


The Commander looked at this scar-faced man who had completely lost his humanity and walked back to the table with a grim face: “Continue. Why did your plan fail?”



“I don’t know the reason. All I know is that Su Guifei and her son did not go to that restaurant to taste the food as planned. And our carefully planned assassination methods were all useless.” Scar’s voice gradually grew softer: “The Marquis suspected that there was a traitor among us and killed several people with dubious movements. Since then, I haven’t been sent out to do anything.”


“Why didn’t Su Guifei and her son follow the plan?”


“Don’t know.” Scar’s body twitched in pain: “I don’t know.”


Seeing that there was nothing more to ask, the disgusted Commander ordered for Scar to be taken away and turned to his subordinates: “Have you found any information about Su Guifei niangniang’s whereabouts in Lingzhou?”


One of the subordinates shook his head: “Captain, His Majesty has assigned undercover Dragon Guards to protect Su Guifei niangniang. When they found out that we were investigating her, those two women rushed over and almost got into a fight with our men.”


They were all Dragon Guards under His Majesty’s command, so why were those two women especially fierce?


“For now, put Su Guifei’s matter aside. I will report to His Majesty first.” The Commander’s eyes turned cold: “Didn’t expect the Zheng family to commit so many sins over the years.”


“Wangfei, His Highness has been carried back.”


“What happened?” Sun Caiyao stood up: “Wasn’t His Highness supposed to go meet Father Emperor?”


“This slave does not know what happened but His Highness was punished by His Majesty. His lower body is now covered in blood.” The palace maid trembled in fear. “This slave asked the eunuchs of the Taiyang Palace, but none of them were willing to say anything.”


“I’ll go see for myself.” Sun Caiyao’s heart was filled with anxiety as she rushed into Qi Wang’s chamber. As soon as she stepped in, a strong smell of blood stung her nose. She grabbed one of the eunuchs who had escorted him back. “How did His Highness get injured? What exactly happened?”


“Please calm down, Junwangfei1Junwangfei [郡王妃] – Princess Consort of second-rank. Refers to the main/legitimate wife of a junwang [郡王]. niangniang.” The young eunuch explained. “His Majesty has already sent an imperial physician to attend to Junwang’s injuries. They are all just superficial wounds that will heal with time, without affecting his bones or muscles.”



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What Junwangfei?


Sun Caiyao released the eunuch in a daze and looked at the man lying on the bed in confusion. How could the man she loved become a Junwang?


“Please take good care of Junwang, Junwangfei. The imperial decree regarding Junwang’s title will be issued soon.” The young eunuch bowed, not daring to meet the Junwangfei’s face. “If there is nothing you need, this little slave would like to report back to Taiyang Palace.”


“Thank you for escorting… His Highness back, gonggong.” Sun Caiyao took out a silver banknote and handed it to the young eunuch. “As long as he is safe and sound.”


“This little slave will take his leave.” The young eunuch slipped the silver banknote into his sleeve, turned around and left.


Sun Caiyao sat down at the edge of the bed in a daze and took out a handkerchief to wipe off the sweat from Yun Yanze’s face. Her eyes were a little red.


In her dreams, His Highness had never suffered such misfortune. Why did it happen today?


She had been convinced that as long as His Highness avoided Ming Jiuzhu, he would escape the fate of being killed by her. So why, despite them not crossing paths, did take a turn for the worse?


What went wrong?


Did the dream deceive her, or was it because she was with His Highness that everything became even more disastrous?!


“Niangniang, His Highness sent a box of pearls for you.” Xiangjuan brought over a box. Su Guifei opened it to find several pearl necklaces inside.


“These necklaces are really beautiful.” Xiangjuan praised. “His Highness is truly thoughtful.”


“How is he being thoughtful?” Su Guifei picked one and held it beside the one at her neck. “Count how many necklaces there are in total.”


Xiangjuan counted; there were eight.


“There are eight necklaces in the box and one in my hand, so a total of nine.” Su Guifei put the necklace back in the box: “This is not him giving me jewelry; he’s clearly only thinking about his future wife2T/N: The character ‘jiu’ in Jiuzhu’s (玖珠) name is the homophone of that of the number nine (九/jiǔ) while the character for ‘pearl’ is the same in both cases (珠/zhū).. He doesn’t have the face to say it directly, so he’s asking this mother of his to invite Jiuzhu into the Palace.”


“Niangniang is indeed clever.” Xiangjuan smiled and shook her head: “This slave is slow-witted. She hadn’t thought of this.”


“You are not slow-witted. It’s just that a mother knows her child best.” Su Guifei smiled and picked up a necklace to put on: “As his mother, I cannot refuse to help him after receiving his bribe. Take my invite and go to Ming residence to pick up Jiuzhu. Just say that I want her to stay in the Palace for a couple of days.”


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“This slave will go now.” Xiangjuan smiled and teased: “Niangniang also misses Ming guniang, don’t you?”


Su Guifei touched the pearl necklace and smiled. She looked at her reflection in the mirror; there was a bit of tenderness on her gorgeous countenance.


Chen Wang absentmindedly played with some pearls on the table. Finally, he swept all the pearls into the box in annoyance.


Did Mother Consort get his hint?


If she didn’t, should he make it clear?


But if he did so, wouldn’t it seem like he was very eager to see Ming Xiaozhu?


He paced around the courtyard and kicked the root of a tree. Ming Xiaozhu was a xianzhu so she could enter the Palace without needing anyone’s invitation. Since she didn’t come, it only meant that she basically never thought of him.


But that didn’t matter. After all, he didn’t think of her much either! 


Frustrated,  he kicked the root again and turned to leave the yard.


“Your Highness, where are you going?”


“Ben Wang is going to visit fourth brother.”


When he was in a bad mood, he would go visit the sick. If he saw his other brothers not doing well, his mood would improve.


The young eunuch hurriedly followed him, worried that His Highness would accidentally anger Qi Junwang to death.


“Young Miss.” Chunfen was baffled as she watched Jiuzhu stuff all the silver and valuable gold hairpins into a box: “Why are you bringing so much gold and silver into the Palace?”


“Shh.” Jiuzhu hugged the box and hid it under her cloak: “Sister, speak softly. Don’t let the gugus from the Palace hear.”


“Ming guniang.” Xiangjuan saw Jiuzhu coming out with something that looked quite heavy, “Let this slave carry it for you.”


“Thank you for the offer, gugu.” Jiuzhu tightly held the wooden box, “These are just some small trinkets, I can carry it myself.”


“Alright.” Xiangjuan nodded and smiled, helping Jiuzhu onto the carriage.

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“Gugu.” Jiuzhu securely hid the wooden box under her cloak, “Can I go and take a look at where His Highness is staying now?”


“Of course you can.” Xiangjuan glanced at the object in Jiuzhu’s arms from the side of her eyes: “We can go to the Zhangliu Palace where His Highness is residing by entering the Chaoyang Gate after going through the Zhuque Gate. Shall we go and see him later after taking a detour to the Chaoyang Gate?”


“Okay ah, okay ah.” Jiuzhu nodded eagerly, the dragonfly hairpin in her hair fluttering its wings and making her look cute and innocent.


Feeling refreshed, Chen Wang walked out of Yun Yanze’s yard when he noticed a familiar head bobbing up and down at the entrance of the yard. When the girl saw him, she immediately started hopping and calling out, “Your Highness! Your Highness, here. Here!”


Chen Wang’s lips curled up. He put his hands behind his back, and walked up to Jiuzhu, raising his chin slightly, “Why are you here?”


“Your Highness, come here.” Jiuzhu grabbed his sleeve and turned to smile at Xiangjuan: “Gugu, I want to talk to His Highness for a moment.”


After speaking, she pulled Chen Wang along, walking until they reached a corner of the wall, where she squatted down, “Your Highness, don’t stand, crouch down quickly.”


Chen Wang looked around, then looked at Jiuzhu’s mysterious expression. He touched his nose and imitated her: “What’s the matter?”


Forget it, he won’t tell her that there were hidden guards outside the yard watching their every move.


Jiuzhu’s expression screamed ‘I’ll show you a treasure’ as she carefully pulled out the box from under her cloak.


“Liu Zhongbao.” Emperor Longfeng stopped in his tracks and looked at the two people crouching against the wall. Their heads were pressing against each other as they whispered: “Isn’t that my son and the Ming family’s guniang squatting there?”


What are they doing?


Are they playing in the mud like three-four year olds?


“Replying to Your Majesty, indeed it is His Highness and the Ming xianzhu.” Liu Zhongbao carefully observed and couldn’t help but wonder, Zhangliu Palace is filled with hidden guards protecting the princes. There is really no need for His Highness and the Ming xianzhu to act so mysteriously.


Emperor Longfeng started to worry, wondering if his son had really taken another family’s little guniang to play in the mud.

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1Junwangfei [郡王妃] – Princess Consort of second-rank. Refers to the main/legitimate wife of a junwang [郡王].2T/N: The character ‘jiu’ in Jiuzhu’s (玖珠) name is the homophone of that of the number nine (九/jiǔ) while the character for ‘pearl’ is the same in both cases (珠/zhū).