郡马 junma: the husband of a junzhu
府 fu: compound or estate; wang fu: prince’s estate/compound
郡主 junzhu: titled daughter of a qinwang (first-rank prince)
郡王 junwang: second-rank prince
丈 zhang: measure of length, 10 Chinese feet (3.3 m)
王妃 wang fei: princess consort; the official wife of a wang or prince
王 wang: short for qinwang or first-rank prince; also called wang ye, i.e. “His [Your] Royal Highness”
姐姐 jiejie: elder sister
Chapter Forty-Five: Assassination
The people in Jing felt unsafe after a case like this occurred. Every day, before it was curfew, there were not many people on the streets. It was much quieter than usual
“Junma, the rain is getting heavy. Should we find a place to rest?” Outside the carriage, a manservant wiped the water from his face and swore at the heavens. It had been raining for a few days, and they finally had waited for a clear day to go out. Who knew that on the way back, it started to rain. It seemed that the rain was going to get heavier. He was so unlucky.
“Not necessary.” Luo Zhong Zheng raised the curtain to look outside, “It is almost curfew. We should return to the fu as soon as possible, otherwise Junzhu will worry.”
“Yes.” The manservant did not dare to speak more and indicated to the carriage driver to drive faster in order to avoid being rained on more when the rain increased. There was no problem if they were rained on, but if Junma became ill, they would be punished when they returned to the junzhu fu.
Luo Zhong Zheng felt very restless inside. He felt very uncertain after the words the Crown Prince had said. In terms of personality, he actually admired Sheng Junwang more, but the Crown Prince was the legitimate heir. He was someone loyal to the monarchy and was naturally on the Crown Prince’s side.
But he had not thought that Junzhu…
The carriage suddenly shook violently. Luo Zhong Zheng’s brow creased as he said, “What is happening?”
No one answered outside, and he instantly felt that something was not well. He raised the curtain to look and immediately changed expression. He found that the guards and manservants that he had taken with him were all spread out on the ground in silence; the ground was dyed red.
Before he could breathe, he glimpsed a silver light flash in front of his eyes. His throat felt cold and itchy. When he wanted to open his mouth and shout, his vision turned dark.
The leader looked at the grandly dressed man who dropped out of the carriage. The heavy rain washed away the blood coming out of his body and added a deathly aura.
“Leader, there’s no one left alive.”
The rain was getting heavier and gradually washed away all footsteps. No one would expect that right under the eyes of the Heavenly Son, on a street of Jing, such a case would occur.
“What? Lin Ping Junma was attacked last night just a few dozen zhang from his fu?!” Hua Xi Wan almost shattered the teacup in her hand. She did not even care about the water that splashed onto her hand. “Is he still alive?”
“Mistress, be careful.” Bai Xia hurried to wipe the water from her hand. Fortunately, the tea was not very hot, otherwise, it would not be good if it burned Mistress. She reached out to take the teacup in Hua Xi Wan’s hand and said in a light voice, “This servant heard that Lin Ping Junzhu Fuhas already put up white banners.”
Hua Xi Wan was slightly surprised. She recalled how Lin Ping Junzhu had not cared for anything in order to marry this man. Now that the man was gone, leaving behind Lin Ping Junzhu and two children. This was not a good matter.
At this time, servants came in with several boxes. Hong Ying inspected them and said with a frown, “Who put in these night pearls? Mistress does not like these things; it is not permitted to have them in the yard from now on.”
“This small one will remember.” The servant who was holding the box of night pearls carefully closed the box with regret. In the eyes of Wang Fei, these night pearls that were worth a thousand taels of gold were like dirt. It was a pity that Wang Ye had sent them with love and did not expect that Wang Fei would not like these objects.
Hua Xi Wan listened to the servant girls inventory what Yan Jin Qiu had people deliver. The little bit of sadness she had felt before dissipated gradually. She even thought that no matter how terrible the relationship between Lin Ping Junzhu and Xian Wang Fu was, at least the blood of the Yan Clan flowed through her. If she wanted to find some compatible men and have them live in the fu, no one would dare to say anything as long as the men were not forced to do so.
A short while later, Yan Jin Qiu hurriedly came in. Seeing Hua Xi Wan in a daze while staring out the window, he walked over to sit next to her. “What is it?”
Hua Xi Wan shook her head and said, “Nothing, I just heard what happened last night and feel slightly uncomfortable.”
Yan Jin Qiu rubbed her palm and did not speak.
Seeing him act like this, Hua Xi Wan hesitated for a moment before saying, “Now that she does not have the junma, Lin Ping Junzhu and the two children will not be able to recover quickly. How about…”
“Your health has recovered just in the last few years—you cannot go to a place like the mourning hall which is full of negative energy.” Yan Jin Qiu shook his head and directly refuted what Hua Xi Wan had not yet said. “Luo Zhong Zheng is a relative of the Imperial Family, and there will be officials from the Ministry of Rites who will be responsible for his funeral. You do not need to worry.”
Hua Xi Wan could hear the indifference in his words and did not mention the matter again. There were close and distant relationships between people. While there was a layer of smoke between her and Yan Jin Qiu, it had to be said that other than her family, he was the person closest to her.
“Just now, I heard the servant say that you do not like the night pearls?” Yan Jin Qiu did not understand why Hua Xi Wan disliked the night pearls so he asked directly, “What do you like—I will have them find it.”
“The storages almost cannot contain what you have given me.” Hua Xi Wan smiled. “I just saw from old book that night pearls will disrupt the thoughts of people and should not be placed in the room.”
“So that is how it is.” Yan Jin Qiu smiled and carried her to sit on his knee. “If you don’t like it, don’t like it. In the future, if there is anything else good, I will have them deliver it.”
Plying people with expensive objects was a move that had a long history and never went out of fashion.
When the two finished their activity on the bed, Hua Xi Wan thought in a daze: how had they come onto the bed?
The assassination of Luo Zhong Zheng was like throwing a bomb into the water of Jing. All the officials felt unsafe. Even a junma was assassinated—what about them?
Qilong Emperor was probably the angriest person. He was the Heavenly Son, yet someone had assassinated a relative of the Imperial Family under his eyes, and did it right next to Lin Ping Junzhu Fu. That was akin to not thinking anything of him! No one dared to directly face the anger of the Heavenly Son, so the entire city was ordered to be completely searched. The public safety of Jing instantly became much better. Even the thieves and hoodlums stopped plying their professions. Right now, the scrutiny was very tight, and they did not want to become the people on whom the anger was vented.
Lin Ping Junzhu did not have any attention to spare for what the people outside were thinking. She had been crying all of these days in the mourning hall, and did not even have the attention to spare for her two children.
She could not believe that this man who had lain with her for so many years had left like this, and the place where he was killed was so close to the junzhu fu. If… if he just went a bit more, he would have gotten home—why was it like this?
“Jing, Jing.” She stumbled to the doorway and looked in the direction of the Imperial Palace. She suddenly laughed so hard that tears were squeezed out of her eyes. “I was wrong, I was wrong.”
She shouldn’t have agreed with the junma to come back to Jing. She had been wrong from the start. When their minds had been tempted by the secret decree of the Emperor, it was fated that they would walk on a path filled with scheming and darkness.
“Zhong Zheng.” Lin Ping Junzhu covered her face and her tears flowed. Her mind was full of scenes of her interacting with Luo Zhong Zheng. Luo Zhong Zheng was not a detail-oriented man, but at the very least, they had treated each other respectfully like a guest all these years and never had disagreements. If they did not come to Jing, she and Luo Zhong Jin would still be the most noble couple in Jiang City. Which of the noble and rich there would not give them face?
While they had come to Jing and although she was a junzhu, because she had left behind the support of Xian Wang Fu, her junzhu position was an empty one. In Jing which was full of nobility, what could her empty junzhu position count for?
The Office of Astronomy calculated the date of the burial from Luo Zhong Zheng’s birth time. The day of the burial, many people set up altars along the path to the burial site. Xian Wang Fu was not an exception.
Hua Xi Wan even personally went to Junzhu Fu. When she arrived, many people had gotten there already. When they saw her appear and then exchanged bows of greeting, Hua Xi Wan stood at the place closest to Lin Ping Junzhu.
No matter how cold the relationship between Lin Ping Junzhu and Xian Wang Fu was, on the surface, they had the closest of relationships. No matter how it was like in private, in such a public setting, they had to act out a good atmosphere.
Because she had cried so much, Lin Ping Junzhu appeared very fragile and her gaze was slightly wooden. When she saw Hua Xi Wan, she only exchanged a few words of courtesy and there was none of the deliberate negativity of the past.
“Please end your grief.” Hua Xi Wan felt that this was the most useless phrase to say to someone after a death, but in a setting like this, she could only say useless things like this.
“Thanks.” Lin Ping Junzhu‘s eyes were bloodshot. She looked at Hua Xi Wan for a beat before reacting and saying, “Please have a seat.”
Hua Xi Wan smiled, went in front of Luo Zhong Zheng’s coffin to bow, and then retreated to one side without a word.
There were many guests who came, but when they saw Lin Ping Junzhu‘s state, no one spoke. They only gave a few words of comfort before finding places to sit or stand. In any case, they tried to stay silent if they could.
When it was time for the coffin to be moved, Lin Ping Junzhu started to cry again. This caused the womenfolk who did not like her to feel some pity. So young and widowed, moreover with the husband dying in such a violent and unfathomable way, anyone would feel grief.
The burial procession came out of Junzhu Fu, and at each altar set up along the street, there was a mourner there. Paper cash and coins were thrown over the entire street, and it really seemed quite tragic.
“Xian Wang Fu pays respects to Lin Ping Junma‘s soul.”
Wearing white, Lin Ping Junzhu stopped and looked at the altar set up next to her. This altar was much higher than the other ones and seemed more weighty. But in reality, it just had a few more objects.
She dazedly turned her gaze away and walked forward. In front of her was the sound of other people crying. She touched her dry eyes. There were no more tears to shed.
She thought back to the time when her younger brother had carried her out onto the marriage sedan. She had been carried on his shoulders and heard him ask her, “Jiejie, will you regret this?”
She remembered that she had returned a resolute no.
Even now, she did not know if she regretted it. The person was already gone. Other than to reminisce about his good qualities, she could not remember his bad ones.
She probably did not regret it.