Published at 26th of April 2019 08:16:08 AM

Chapter 76

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Chapter 76: Shen Chen Mutiny

Translator: Flying-Lines

Minglan was still in bewilderment when recalling the days of the revolt after quite a long time.

It was the fifth day after Third Prince adopted a son, Rulan got a bamboo growing so well that she invited Molan and Minglan for her showing off. Molan, getting tired of Rulan's boasting, began to talk about He family in a rather awkward tone.

"Old Madam He and grandma enjoy years of friendship. It was such an honor that He family sent an invitation yet madam, sister-in-law and you sisters were not available to go, so that only left me and Old Madam." Minglan gave a perfect answer.

Rulan chuckled craftily with her mouth covered and deliberately protracted her voice, “Ohoooo…I see, fourth elder sister was quite busy then.”

Molan stared back at her quite indignantly.

According to Old Madam Sheng, the two family were quite pleased with the bride- and bridegroom-to-be, so the match was half decided. However, the marriage of the two elder sisters of Minglan were yet to be decided, so they kept it secret from all except Sheng Hong and Wang shi in case any harsh rumors arose.

Sheng Hong behaved quite like a loving father who nearly investigated everything about He family. After thorough consideration, he nodded in approval, “Though not populous, his family is wealthy. The boy is sensible and capable. Minglan is a blessed one with Old Madam Sheng caring for her.”

Wang shi pouted her mouth, “The boy’s father died early and his grandfather retired long ago. Only his elder uncle is a sub-prefect (Tongzhi) in a remote place. But his background is enough to match with Minglan.”

In fact, Wang shi felt quite envious as though He Hongwen looked common with ordinary background, he was balanced-equipped for a future son-in-law, a wealthy family with official background. Whoever married him could run the household without heavy burden to serve the parents-in-law. Common yet quite economic.

From where Minglan belonged, He Hongwen was the so-called budget husband pursued by many. Sheng Hong went to the Ministry of Works after the conversation while Changbai went to the Imperial Academy.

It was a gloomy day; the sun was nowhere to be found even by the noon. The early winter was unexpectedly hot with the comeback heat of autumn, the air quite sweltering that it drove all in sweats.

In the first quarter of Shen (15:00-16:59), the loud noise of bells resonated through the whole city, the heavy thumping sounds of which frightened all. Then a curfew was imposed and all houses were closed with not a single man on the street. Soliders patrolled every corner of the city and killed anyone suspicious, causing the perish of countless innocent souls in merely a few hours.

All noble and aristocrat families closed their doors waiting anxiously for the end. Wang shi was panicked when Sheng Hong and Changbai didn't make it home by evening. Hai shi managed to stay calm but stared blankly without focus with her pregnant belly. 

The whole family was overwhelmed by fright and panic as Sheng Hong and Changbai were missing for three whole days with not a single piece of news about their whereabouts or safety. All females gathered in the Hall of Peaceful Ages waiting anxiously for the unknown. Old Madam Sheng berated with a serious face about their panic as she ordered servants to pry into news.

However, the situation got even tenser that even outings for food and daily supplies were prohibited. Anyone trying a few more arguments for justice would be beheaded on the spot. No valuable information could be gained. The only thing known was that the Imperial Guards controlled the Imperial City with some other soldiers dispatched from Commandery of Five Armies. Old Madam Sheng then privately sent some to get news from Kang Yun'er, only to learn that Changwu also disappeared for days. Unwilling to take shelter in her father's home, Yun'er just stayed in her own house waiting in tears for her husband's safe return.

All females sat together, panic stricken and absent minded. In the silent room came the soft sobbing of Molan, Rulan buried herself in Wang shi's arms, Hai shi stared blankly in the air, Changfeng paced restlessly at the door, Changdong, with his eyes wide open, dared not to speak and only grabbed tightly at Minglan's sleeve. While Minglan felt a chill down through her spine and couldn't help trembling in the smeltering day.

It was the first time she realized how important Sheng Hong and Changbai were to the family. She dared not even to delve deep into the consequence if they died.

A good son Sheng Hong was not, nor a great husband, yet he was indeed a responsible father who would remember to check his children’s school work, instruct his sons in studying and educate the girls on rites whenever he got a minute. And he never abused. He selected the families for best match for the children of marriageable age, and searched through connections for great teachers, which was how Changdong got his opportunity to enter a great school in imperial city.

Minglan couldn’t contain her fret any longer, she wanted to cry as she didn’t want to lose such a father.

The fourth day, Sheng Hong and Changbai still didn’t get home. The only vague news they got was the third prince plotted a rebellion to the throne and was executed. The fourth prince was now rummaging through the city for suspected accomplices on His Majesty’s decree. The teachers of third prince had been executed, eight junior officials of Zhanshi House (department in charge of daily affairs of the emperor and princes) killed, Shen Zhen the Great Bachelor of Wenhua Palace, Yu Yan the vice prime minister of Cabinet and director of Ministry of Penalty committed suicide on imperial order for conspiring with third prince. More officials implicated were prisoned upon imperial decree with their safety unknown.

The news only increased the panic. For a time, the whole city was shadowed by fright.

“Where is this imperial edict prison?” Rulan asked with terror, “Are father and brother there?”

Molan burst into tears, “It is the prison constructed upon His Majesty’s order. All those in it would be tormented, if not killed. Are father and brother also…”

Minglan berated coldly, “Watch your mouth, fourth elder sister! Father and brother have always been cautious, never ganging up for personal interest. How could they be involved with no connection with anyone from third prince’s?”

“Not necessarily so,” Concubine Lin who had been standing behind couldn’t help retorting, “Madam has been on friendly terms with Junzhu Pingning who is the in-law of sixth prince, and sixth prince is on the same boat with third prince…”

“Shut up!” Old Madam Sheng fumed before Lin could finish her words. Smashing the tea cup to the ground with hot tea splattering, Old Madam Sheng stood up before all in the room and demonstrated such an imposing air that Minglan had never felt before.

“Stop any ominous nonsense with all unknown. I’ll slap whoever talks nonsense.” Old Madam Sheng scanned the room with her sharp gaze, Wang shi sobbed with tears in eyes while Concubine Lin lowered her head in silence.

Old Madam Sheng continued with firmness on her face and voice, “Family members of military officers all lead their life in peace and calmness when their father and brothers fight in the battlefields. Are they useless like you?”

The ladies controlled their cries a bit, then Old Madam continued firmly, “Life and death is normal, wealthy or poor depends on the heaven. We Sheng family has the protection of ancestors and sheltering from Buddha, they sure will return safe and sound.”

Gradually, all calmed down, yet whether it was due to the rebuke from Old Madman Sheng or it was because the panic decayed all by itself was unknown. Wang shi wiped her tears and continued to manage domestic affairs, reproaching those panic-stricken servants with a fierce expression and ordering them to guard the door.

That night army with unknown origin sneaked into the city by darkness and confronted fiercely with the guards. Luckily, Sheng Manson wasn't in the central area. Hideous bloodshed happened in the area around the Imperial Palace with killing, flames and civilians dying in the riot.

Harem all stayed home in panic. After over 36 hours of bloodshed it stopped on the sixth morning. It was a quiet day with the drizzle dispersing the stuffiness and the cool breeze blowing away the depression in everyone's heart. Then Sheng Hong and Changbai came home with the rain.

The father and son both looked bedraggled, one with disheveled hair and sunken eyes as if having spent a whole week in prison, the other with hollow face and pale lips as if having watched horror movies for seven days.

Wang shi threw herself into Sheng Hong’s arms in tears and smiles, Concubine Lin tried that too but was stopped by Liu Kun's wife before she got a chance. Hai shi grabbed firmly at Changbai's arm without any regard to manners. The three Lans were so overjoyed that they pulled their father by the sleeve with tears running down their cheeks. In the whole mess of asking and answering, Old Madam Sheng ordered everyone to stay calm and let the two wash themselves up first.

The past days were like a journey through life and death, tormenting as if a generation had passed. Sheng Hong couldn't help throwing himself to Old Madam's arms in tears after tidying himself up. Changbai held the crying Hai shi and Wang shi in arms and comforted gently for quite some time before the two finally calmed down. Old Madam Sheng ordered all servants out and inquired in detail what had happened.

Sixth days ago, the old emperor quitted the morning court by illness as usual. All political affairs were then reported to the Cabinet by the head of all departments. All was well before the riot suddenly came. The first sign of it was the commander of Imperial Guards Xu Xin was ambushed and killed outside the door of Xihua Gate, then the vice commander took over the guardian team, enforced a strict curfew and welcomed fourth prince into the imperial palace to ‘protect’ His Majesty.

Sheng Hong knew it immediately that fourth prince started a coup.

The vice commander of Five Armies, Wu Yong, detained the Lord Commander Dou, deployed soldiers to control the Six Ministries and other important departments and took many officials into custody. Then the imperial guards besieged imperial palace and third prince’s mansion, while fourth price, holding the forged imperial decree, executed third prince with a cup of poisoned wine, and forced His Majesty to grant him as the Crown Prince.

Minglan was shocked: It was the same as Xuan Wu Gate Incident.

T/N: The Xuanwu Gate Incident was a palace coup for the throne of the Tang dynasty on 2 July 626, when Prince Li Shimin (Prince of Qin) and his followers assassinated Crown Prince Li Jiancheng and Prince Li Yuanji (Prince of Qi).

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However, fourth prince was not Li Shiming, nor the old emperor Li Yuan. The old emperor had prepared in advance a secret plan for emergency. Sheng Hong and Changbai knew not how His Majesty quelled the mutiny, but the three troops stationed in suburb of the capital swarmed into the city and at the same time the several vice commanders in Five Armies managed to escape, rescued Commander Dou, and killed Wu Yong by surprise, taking the guardian team back in control. Then they led the manpower of the three troops into the city, launching counterattack against the Imperial Palace to rescue the emperor.

The table had turned. Fourth prince was arrested with his accomplices either killed, arrested or running away, marking the end of Shen Chen Mutiny lasting for seven whole days.

Sheng Hong signed, "Luckily, Lord Minister is alert who immediately led us into the secret chamber in Ministry of Works where stored food and water. We all survived these tough days. However, other colleagues...suffered. An upright one was killed for not willing to yield in and those killed or wounded in the mutiny are still unknown."

Changbai who had been silent all the while suddenly spoke, "Prime Minister of Cabinet escaped, vice Prime Minister was murdered. Those conspirators forced the Grand Secretary to forge imperial decree to grant the throne to fourth prince, his lordship refused, cursed them in rage and smashed himself upon the golden steps. Blood splattered everywhere. Then they forced Educator Lin who refused too and accepted his fate with smiles. Then it was Tutor Kong's turn who spat on the conspirator and threw himself to the sword held to his neck." With that, even Changbai who always kept his emotion well nearly sobbed with eyes turning red. Hai shi wiped tears in silence as the several noble officials were once students of his grandfather who all taught Changbai much in court.

"Should Commander Dou arrive half a day later, it would be my turn, a seventh ranked official." Forcing a wry smile, Changbai continued, "I even wrote my posthumous papers and hid them in my sleeve."

Though her son was alive by her side, Wang shi turned pale out of terror and gripped Changbai firmly by the sleeve. Changfeng looked dismal, twitching his lips as if trying to manage some great response. However, in the end he just lowered his head. Eyes of Concubine Lin who was sitting behind glimmered with somewhat pity.

Silence reigned the room that even a pin drop could be heard. Then came Sheng Hong's long sign, "Both were princes and brothers by blood, why committing such a brutal deed?"

No one could answer that. Changbai managed to hold in his emotion and said in a light voice, "If only His Majesty could decide the crown prince earlier."

All the issue derived from the long years of suspension of the crown prince. The old emperor's hesitation rendered the two princes in a long lasting hostile position with each buying over a group of manpower. Civil officials of both sides attacked one another, military officials ganged up in separate groups. The warring relationship between the two parties worsened to the point of extreme tense which was set to flames by the point the old emperor agreed third prince to adopt an heir.

At that time even if fourth prince himself gave up the throne the men supporting him wouldn't agree for the once touchable power that they had been scheming for years.

"Luckily Yuan the nephew in law and Changwu are not injured. We must thank our ancestors for the bless." Old Madam Sheng heaved a long sign of relief.

Much trusted by Commander Dou, Yuan Wenshao was detained and rescued together with Dou and then followed him to quell the mutiny. Therefore, he should be fine with dereliction offset by merits. The Zhongwei Guardian Team where Changwu worked was assigned tasks out of the capital, so he was not involved in the bloodshed and even made somewhat contribution in stopping the mutiny, therefore he would probably get promoted.

The brutal massacre, the great change of the imperial court caused numerous civilians and officials to perish, bringing countless families to ruins. All were exhausted by the tragedy, so Old Madam told everyone to get back for some rest. All filed out with Sheng Hong in the lead who intended to compose two memorials to the throne in his study, followed by Changfeng and Changdong, then the young ladies.

Changbai was the last to get up who turned back to Old Madam Sheng and Wang shi after moments of hesitation, "One more thing...sixth Princess and Xianzhu Jiacheng died in the revolt."

By that point the three Lans were already out of the door but still caught the words due to the extreme silence of late night, who all stopped in shock and went back to the door on tiptoe for eavesdropping.

Old Madam Sheng and Wand shi were both stupefied with hasty voice from Wang shi, "How come?"

Changbai managed some words, "Marquis Fuchang contrived with fourth prince, Little Imperial Concubine Rong was the planted agent in palace who summoned the harem of some noble families into the palace and took them in custody. When the mutiny began, Rong Xian forced into the palace and dragged away sixth princess and Xianzhu Jiacheng. Not until yesterday when Commander Dou led troops into the palace were they found dead in a chamber…they were…"

With that, Changbai paused as if trying hard to find the proper words. But then on a second thought, he knew it would be hard to be kept secret since their corpses were seen by quite a lot soldiers, so he explained in short, “They died from rape…”

The air froze. The girls were chilled to the bone. Rulan and Molan turned ghastly pale out of fright, covering their mouth to stop themselves from making any sound. Minglan, though not able to peek inside the room, could imagine the shock everyone got.

Then came the dry voice of Old Madam Sheng after a while, “Was it for…the girl of Rong family who committed suicide out of shame?”

“Precisely,” Changbai replied in a soft voice. “Rong Xian had been claiming that he wanted to avenge for his sister. Rong family had ferreted out the ruffians kidnapping Lady Rong long ago. It turned out they were the guards and house servants of sixth princess who had planned to just disgrace Lady Rong and force her out of the capital. However, it went awry as Xianzhu Jiacheng, with viciousness at such a young age, intervened. While Lady Rong was a girl of pride who couldn’t bare the shame and…”

His pause didn’t stop others from getting the unsaid meanings.

“They could have reported to His Majesty!” Wang shi chimed in quite hastily.

“What difference would that make?” asked Changbai calmly.

Indeed! It wouldn’t make any difference. There was no way that the old emperor would kill his daughter-in-law and granddaughter for Rong Feiyan. The thing was Little Imperial Concubine Rong bore no heir. And the sixth prince acted in such a rampant manner even with the old emperor still on the throne. By the time the old emperor died, Rong family would be like the meat on sixth prince’s chopping block, leaving them no alternative but to go and seek refuge with the cornered fourth prince. And the death of Rong Feiyan was the ignitor.

No more words from the room, then Minglan, holding her two elder sisters each with one hand, turned away and left. Molan sobbed as they walked back with mouth covered. Xianzhu and Feiyan were two young girls of prime age who they had drank tea not long ago, now both died a violent death.

Rulan sobbed, “Is it over?”

Minglan thought to herself, “I’m afraid not. Crimes are yet to be decided, awards for contributions yet to be granted, plus a new crown prince to be selected.”

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