Unable to Do Anything!
The Emperor and this Empress have always been the best working partners. In the past many years, with one in the court and one in the harem, they managed everything in a stable manner. The Empress was very good at guessing the Emperor’s thoughts, as he shot a glance over, she would know what to say and what to do. And in the past, the Emperor also felt that this Empress understood his thoughts. Ignoring the fact that there was no love, feelings still existed. There was nothing to criticise about giving her the position as the mother of the nation.
However, the two of them understood one thing clearly, it was just that no one had laid it out in the open. They were waiting, waiting for someone on the other side to appear, taking the bait. Then whether the Empress could still be the Empress would depend on her good fortune.
Of course, those were the thoughts of the Emperor in the past. Ever since he favoured Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu, all of this were thrown to the back of his mind. Sometimes, he would be a little clear-minded, remembering that he was waiting for someone to appear, and that person had to be brought out by the Empress, so the Empress could not be abolished. He also knew that touching the Empress was the same as touching the foundation of the nation. It was not something which could easily be settled by saying ‘Abolish the Empress’, that was why the Empress seat had been kept the whole time.
But tonight, for unknown reasons, the Emperor’s mind cleared up a lot. It was not as if he remembered something, or that he had come to realise the truth. He only started to suspect, started to become suspicious of the current situation. Especially when he heard that he actually banished Zhang Yuan to the Department of Guilty Servants, a huge feeling of being dumbstruck surged in his heart.
He asked the Empress: “Do you know why We sent Xiao Yuan Zhi to the Department of Guilty Servants? Why don’t We remember what mistake he committed at all? In addition, even if he did make a mistake, it is impossible for Us to treat him like this. From when Xiao Yuan Zhi was young until now, the number of huge mistakes he committed was not limited to one or two, We have already gotten used to it.”
Hearing this, the Empress was actually feeling delighted on the inside. No matter what, the Emperor being willing to think about the situation showed that he was not completely muddled and was not completely accepting of what Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu and her son said. This allowed her to see hope, the hope of seeing the Emperor recover. She said to the Emperor: “Your Majesty feels that some things are strange recently?”
The Emperor nodded, “Things are a little strange, but We cannot think of what exactly is wrong. Other than the matter with Xiao Yuan Zhi, Empress, tell me, is there anything else that is strange?”
“There are a lot.” The Empress said plainly, “For example, Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu. Another example, the Eighth Prince. Does Your Majesty feel that the recent situation is normal?”
The Emperor thought very seriously, then shook his head, “We don’t think that is anything strange! Yuan Shu is Our beloved concubine, Mo-er is Our favoured son, there is nothing wrong with Us being close to them.”
“Beloved concubine and favoured son? Then why ignore them for more than 20 years? Has Your Majesty never thought of the reason?” The Empress hit the crux of the issue with one sentence, but the Emperor who was listening was stunned.
Every time this topic was mentioned, his head would hurt. The Emperor raised his arm and grabbed his head with a pained expression, the gaze directed at the Empress containing some hatred. He said: “Empress, We only asked you about Xiao Yuan Zhi, why did you have to mention Concubine Yuan Shu and Mo-er? Our head feels especially painful once We heard your words, so you should stop talking about it.”
The Empress was helpless, but seeing that Emperor like this, it was not good for her to say anything else, so she shifted the topic back to Zhang Yuan, saying: “Does Your Majesty wish for This Wife to fetch Zhang Yuan back from the Department of Guilty Servants?” She shook her head while saying this, “It is not easy! Right now, This Wife is also unable to do anything in this Imperial Palace, being restricted by Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu in every way. Does Your Majesty feel that This Wife has the ability to take Zhang Yuan out? Thanks to you, Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu is the master of this imperial harem.”
“You are the Empress.” The Emperor’s volume increased a little, and he spoke rather unhappily: “Why are you still unable to do anything? Yuan Shu is such a nice person, how can she restrict you?”
“Since Your Majesty thinks so, why didn’t you ask Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu directly to get Zhang Yuan out, but summoned This Wife here instead?” She asked a question in return: “Asking This Wife to come, isn’t it because Your Majesty subconsciously feels that some things should not be said to Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu?”
Once she said this, the Emperor also remembered, that’s right! He was in a daze just now and felt that many things did not make sense. For example, how did he celebrate New Year’s Eve for the past 20 years? Why did he not meet Imperial Concubine Shu for so many years? Why did he feel like he had forgotten a lot of things? And had a warped viewpoint of a lot of things? For an instant, he had an especially strong will to clarify these questions, and at the same time, he felt that he could not ask Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu. If he wanted to ask, he should ask a reliable person. Thinking about it, the only reliable person was the Empress, that was why he summoned the Empress.
“That’s right!” The Emperor mumbled: “We called you here to guard against Imperial Concubine Shu. But…… why?” He did not understand it again.
The Empress sighed softly, patted the back of the Emperor’s hand and said: “Since Your Majesty wants to see Zhang Yuan, then This Wife will do everything I can to fulfill Your Majesty’s wish.” Saying this, she looked at Fang Yi who was standing outside the door. Fang Yi nodded in the Empress’ direction but did not take action immediately, because Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu and the Eighth Prince were still standing outside.
The two of them were feeling extremely anxious. In the eyes of the palace staff, they were this anxious because they were worried about the Emperor’s illness. But they did not know, the words the Eighth Prince said when he lowered his head and spoke quietly next to Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu’s ears were: “What do we do? If the old man isn’t under control, wouldn’t this matter fall apart soon?”
Imperial Concubine Yuan Shu shook her head and spoke softly: “It will not fall apart yet, it’ll just bit a little challenging. These situations are also within what we have expected in the beginning. Carrying out this kind of task is like overcoming difficulties the whole time. Obstacles will always appear, after passing through each one and walking to the end, the task, would be done.” Saying this, she gave Xuan Tianmo a look and advised: “Don’t be rash, Mo-er, we still have time.”
At this time, in the labourers’ yard at the Department of Guilty Servants, everyone had retreated back into the houses to commemorate New Year’s Eve. Even at this kind of place, the Imperial Palace would not be heartless during New Year’s Eve. They would still distribute dumplings to at least allow the guilty servants have a bite.
Light snow was falling from the sky, but the benefit of retreating inside the house and eating dumplings was not given to Zhang Yuan. At this moment, he was sitting in the yard and washing clothes. There were even icicles in the water, pricking him until his hands were covered in wounds. He still had to wash the clothes while paying attention to make sure that the blood flowing out from his hands did not stain the clothes and occasionally had to rub his hands in the snow to freeze the wounds.
Zhang Yuan had entered the palace when he was young and was lucky to be at the Emperor’s side, never having to experience such hardship. These days in the Department of Guilty Servants gave him all the hardships which he had never experienced in the past dozen years. Such as scrubbing the lavatory, washing clothes, fetching water, washing feet for the important people over there, he had done all of this. If he did not do it well, or did not finish his tasks, he would not be given anything to eat, and would even be punished by standing in the snow. Frostbite wounds had grown on his feet and his hands were already half useless. It was likely that they would never recover.
However, there were still so many chores waiting for him, practically everyone’s chores were pushed onto him. And those people who were free just had to give the person-in-charge shoulder or feet massages on a daily basis and would not need to do these tiring, dirty and laborious chores. In order to survive, in order to live on, it was not as if he had never thought of such tricks, but no one liked him. Even if he knelt down and begged, no one pitied him. He wanted to give the person-in-charge shoulder massages, but he did not use him. It was clear they were intentionally making things difficult for him, wanting him to suffer and get hurt, wanting to shame the Head Eunuch who had been glorious at one point such that even those in power had to give him face when meeting him.
The silver notes and sliver which Feng Yuheng gave him before had disappeared in one night. Without even using that money to curry favour with anyone, the money was no longer his.
Zhang Yuan felt more aggrieved as he thought of this, wiping his tears away, then looked at the tubs and tubs of clothes. He knew that he would not sleep tonight. For these clothes, even if he washed until next morning, he would not be able to finish. It was snowing too, he did not know if he would freeze outside.
Once he thought that he might freeze to death, he shuddered and stood up quickly, planning to go into the house to get another piece of clothing. He still wanted to see the old Emperor again while he was still alive, he could not die just like this.
But without even walking three steps, he heard someone walk over from the other side of the yard, shouting as he walked: “Hey! Zhang Yuan, where are you going? Have you finished washing the clothes? Were you allowed to leave?”
Zhang Yuan turned around, three people had come in total, they were Eunuchs in the palace and were sent to the Department of Guilty Servants after making mistakes. They were servants of the same rank, but these three people got along well with the person-in-charge and were always currying favour, almost licking that person’s feet. Putting good effort into this area, they naturally did not need to suffer everyday like this. The current lives of these three even looked better compared to when they were at the side of their previous masters. Of course, they would always give Zhang Yuan trouble.
For example, like right now. Zhang Yuan wanted to go back to the house and put on more clothes but was coincidentally seen by these three people. Ignoring them shouting loudly, they even kicked over the two tubs of clothes Zhang Yuan finished washing, then looked at Zhang Yuan with glee: “In the past you were an important person next to the Emperor, when we met, we still have to act humble and held in a lot of resentment. But right now, you are a guilty servant who is even lower than a dog, and you still wish to live the same way as before? You still want others to respect you? Fuck it! No such thing!”
“That’s right! A guilty servant is a guilty servant, not washing the clothes properly, where are you going? Do you believe that as long as we shout that Zhang Yuan wants to escape, the Eunuch in charge would break your legs!”
“Us guilty servants beating another guilty servant to death does not need to be reported, you should be clear on whose hands your life is in!”
Seeing that those two tubs of washed clothes were dirty again, Zhang Yuan was close to crying. But he knew that it was useless to cry, it was useless to fight, and quarreling was even more useless. He had used all these methods before, and in exchange, other than a new round of shaming, he did not get anything else.
Quietly picking up the two tubs of dirty clothes, he refiled them with ice water and gave up on going back to put on more clothes. He just sat on the stool and started washing them again. The wounds on his hands increased, and he could only wipe it in the snow or his own clothes, trying his best not to stain the clothes of the nobles.
Zhang Yuan thought, they hated him so much, so they probably really wished for him to die, right? There was no need to report the deaths of guilty servants. This was a good chance to kill people. Based on this, the fact that he was tortured yet not allowed to die, this meant that there was definitely someone in the shadows who did not want him to die, or more like, they did not wish for him to die that quickly, wanting him to suffer more, that was the true purpose of that other party……
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