The servants ran to and fro in the Imperial Palace. Hanging lamps and decorations for some big occasion. There was no big celebration though, since the sound of festivities never left the walls of the Imperial Palace.
In the witching hour, the moon hung high in the sky and the Imperial Palace shone like daylight, revealing four people in the wide hall.
The emperor seated on his throne, crown prince on the seat to his right, his largeness to his left and princess Yongning was seated further to the left.
Two generations of Yuwen clan had gathered here for a family picture, while servants stood to the side at attention.
Looking at his children, the aged emperor showed kindness, “Today is my birthday. It is not as lively as the celebration I had last year, but it is peaceful. It’s been too long since we sat together, as a family.”
“Imperial father, may you live for millenia, to care for our nation and be carefree. It is my privilege to be here with you and just talk at leisure.” Crown Prince bowed.
Fatty followed, while Yongning was still sour, flicking her head away.
The emperor began, “Crown Prince, I know you always go by the rules, but you are among family here. Can’t you let go of those old pedantic and empty formalities?”
“I obey the imperial father’s order.” Crown Prince bowed again.
The emperor sighed, from the imperial power and imperial grief. Even his own flesh and blood treated him like a stranger.
By comparison, Yongning never had trouble crossing the line many times over with her cheerful nature. Only around her did this old emperor feel like a father should, spoiling his children rotten.
He turned to the apple of his eye, not minding it one bit that she always went against him…
“Yongning, do you still blame me? It’s been six months.”
“Imperial father, you brought invaders into our lands, harmed our people, ruined your image and yet still think it was justified?” Yongning rebutted.
The emperor said, “Yongning, to prevent the corrupt world from staining you I have kept many things hidden from you. One thing you should always remember, everything I do, I do it for you all, for the future of Yuwen clan. Cough~”
The emperor’s coughing fit earned Yongning’s sympathy, but she toughed it out and refused to forgive her father.
The emperor smiled at her worried gaze.
He turned to gesture at the empty hall, “Crown Prince, Cong’er, do you recall my last jubilee? With outsiders, officials and many more coming to show respect. So why is it so empty today?”
The two opted for silence. [Isn’t it obvious?] With so many wars happening one after the other, the factions have all fallen.
But coming from the emperor, this question ought to have a deeper meaning.
“Imperial father, it is because Quanrong holds us captive.” Crown Prince bowed with a prideful smile, “Holding a feast right now will be like declaring that we and Quanrong are allied. This closed celebration is unworthy of Imperial father, but you always have the grand scheme of things in mind.”
The emperor nodded, “Crown Prince, you’re always so thoughtful and careful in your analysis and affairs. I am relieved…”
Crown Prince’s heart sank.
The emperor’s praise had a foreboding feeling. [Shrewd or thoughtful is the same thing.]
[Relieved? Ha, the slave handles everything while the lord merely orders. Imperial father must mean…]
Crown Prince’s eyes glinted.
“Cong’er, what do you think?” The emperor asked.
The fatty bowed, “Imperial father, I believe the court is barren as you’ve removed the rebels. To restore life and prosperity to the court and nation, we have to promote talents to benefit the people and bring back our former glory.”
The emperor nodded, “Cong’er, you have good eyes. Good, good, ha-ha-ha…”
The emperor returned to his throne.
Crown Prince’s face was looking gloomier by the second.
[For god’s sake, Imperial father was testing our policies, not judging how we handle the situation. This was a serious lapse of judgment. Imperial father must like the old third more now.]
Crown Prince pushed down the rancor, returning to his seat morosely.
The emperor motioned for the feast to begin, having a nice family dinner. Everyone seemed happy, except Yongning, choosing to ignore her traitorous father.
The emperor still watched her with the same fond eyes.
The violent cough turned the emperor pale. A servant rushed over with a bowl, “Your Majesty, please take your medicine.”
The emperor drank it all. One second he felt better and the next he spurted black blood, with black mist hovering around his face.
“Poison!” The emperor groaned.
Fatty inspected with caution and Yongning was flustered, rushing to her dear father’s side, tearing up, “Imperial father, why is there poison in the medicine?”
Fatty and Yongning glared at the servant, but the guy had lost it from fear and was about to soil himself.
Poisoning the emperor was a capital offense. Of course he’d panic.
A flat voice came, “Imperial father, you have gotten on in years and should pass down the mantle. I ask that you come to a decision.”
Crown Prince stood up with pride, brushing the nonexistent dust off his shoulder.
“You!” The emperor shook, this news was devastating.
With his twisted smile finally out in the open, the Crown Prince admitted to patricide, “It is me! I had someone slip poison in your medicine, a 7th grade poison. Once it sets in, there’s no cure.”
“Why, big brother, why must you poison the imperial father?” Yongning lamented, fatty glared at him as well.
Crown Prince mocked, “Yongning, imperial father is right, you’re too innocent. The less you know the better.”
“I want to know! Tell me what possible reason drove you on the path to regicide and patricide!” Yongning shouted.
Crown Prince smirked, “You really want to know? Fine, I’ll tell you. You call this patricide and regicide. But has dear father ever seen me as a son? I am a mere pawn in his games.”
“How can you speak of your imperial father like that? He may have brought invaders to his lands, but he never once treated you wrong!” Yongning cried out, filled with disbelief.
Crown Prince pointed at the poisoned emperor, his face dark, “Ask him, if he has never done it before.”
Yongning watched the disdain on the emperor’s face, “Oh? Do tell, Crown Prince, when have I done you wrong?”
“Do you really want me to say it or is it to understand my thinking?”
Crown Prince sneered, “Doesn’t matter, I will explain. You made me the Crown Prince of this nation without any intention of handing the throne to me. I am just old third’s shield.”
Crown Prince flicked a hand at fatty. The tubby’s largeness wobbled in shock.
The emperor said, “Go on.”
“Imperial father, everyone covets the Crown Prince’s position. You appointed me early on and had everyone’s attention plastered on me so that fatty will have an easy time filling his future role.”
Crown Prince squinted, “The emperor is ruler supreme and is clear about every little thing happening in Tianyu. Over the decades, it was only the fatty roaming the lands. You didn’t seem to like him, giving him the worst tasks, while you actually favored him the most. You alienated him to protect him. All the tasks you picked for him were to shape him for the throne. While the great Crown Prince was still stuck with a target on his back, drawing everyone’s hostility, only to end up kicked to the curb at the end.”
Crown Prince’s eyes were bloodshot. The other two were hateful and unwilling but still turned to the emperor, stunned.
Yet the emperor only stared back at the Crown Prince…