Evening, Fuyang Hall in the Palace.

During the journey from the Imperial Garden to Fuyang Hall, the Qizhen Emperor’s face remained tense throughout. As Zhang Quan followed behind him, he didn’t dare to speak and ordered someone to bring an incense burner to put it at a side, hoping that it would lift the Emperor’s mood.

Suddenly, the Emperor called for him. “Zhang Quan.”

Zhang Quan hurried over, bent in a bow. “Your Majesty?”

“Do you think that We should agree to Jing Yi’s marriage, or not?”

“Your servant… doesn’t dare comment.”

“We bade you speak, so say it.”

Zhang Quan drew in a long breath, rolling the words in his mouth for a long while before he replied, “Your Majesty, why not go along with Concubine Xiao’s wishes?”

“Go along with her wishes?” You mean We should allow it!

“Your Majesty, please forgive this servant for being direct. Concubine Xiao has requested, time and time again, for Prince Yi to marry Miss Ji. This is merely a bid to sway the Ji family to their side, now that Prince Yi’s influence and power in the court is surging. Regardless of whether or not Prince Yi is involved with the assassination incident or the Ministry of Personnel incident, the underlying motive is to consolidate Prince Yi’s position. Initially, didn’t Your Majesty similarly wish for the Crown Prince to marry Miss Ji in order to secure the military might of the two Ji brothers? If Prince Yi would become the Crown Prince sooner or later, why not let him marry Miss Ji as he wishes in order to settle his insecurities?” Settle his insecurities?

As Zhang Quan finished speaking, he lifted his head to assess the Qizhen Emperor’s reaction to his words, and realised that his face had turned serious. Zhang Quan hurriedly added on, “This is merely your servant’s opinion. If Your Majesty finds it inappropriate, please take it as if your servant had said nothing.”

But words once spoken are like water that has been thrown out - could one really ignore their existence? However, the Qizhen Emperor didn’t disagree with what he had just said.

Certainly, the most sensible solution right now was to agree to Concubine Xiao’s request and let Prince Yi marry Miss Ji. They might as well let the prince gain the support of the Ji family to settle his insecurities and dissuade him from creating as much trouble. Prince Yi would no longer have to worry that his position as heir to the throne would be affected and as a result of that, he would not go stir trouble amongst the court officials or go out of his way to secretly harm his other competitor, Jing Rong, who was already in the faraway Yufu.

Of Their four sons, one had already died due to fighting amongst the factions; another was weak and useless, muddled with his illness and the last one had been sent away from the capital by his own hands, practically stripped of all his power.

If Jing Yi truly decided to be ruthless in his bid for the throne and killed Jing Rong, he wouldn’t be able to rest easy even if he died. Besieged with doubts, Their two hands were clenched into tight fists where they rested on the desk. “In Our heart… We have already decided.”

Zhang Quan didn’t dare to speak unnecessarily as he waited at the side.

……

Early in the morning, the Qizhen Emperor issued a decree and gave three directives: First, deliver it to Prince Yi’s residence. Second, deliver it to the General’s mansion. Third, proclaim it to the public.

“The Emperor’s edict states: Ji Muqing of the Ji family is talented and virtuous, outstanding in appearance and manner; We are extremely pleased with her. Today, this beautiful woman is specially betrothed to Prince Yi as his Consort. The entire ceremony shall be organised by the Ministry of Rites and Imperial Clan Bureau. An auspicious hour shall be selected for the wedding that will be held three days later. As decreed by the Emperor Himself.” As the eunuch finished the proclamation of the Imperial edict, jubilation spread across his face.

Ji Li, Ji Huan, and Ji Muqing kneeled on the floor before him. The eunuch stepped forward with the imperial edict held aloft, a fawning smile on his lips as he bowed, “Prince Yi’s Consort, please receive the edict.”

Ji Muqing was dazed by the address of ‘Prince Yi’s Consort’. She lowered her head shyly and gently parted her red lips as she accepted the imperial edict. “Many thanks to His Majesty.”

Everyone got up.

“Congratulations, Prince Yi’s Consort.” The eunuch said, “It’s a joyous day for all.”

Ji Muqing’s heart was filled with both delight and nervousness as she carried that imperial edict. The day she had waited so long for, had finally arrived. “Many thanks, gonggong.” [1]

“Prince Yi’s Consort is too polite.” The eunuch turned to Ji Li and Ji Huan, “Congratulations to War Secretary Ji and General Ji. The Ji family has produced a consort for Prince Yi, and will increase in honor and glory.” Glory your head!

Ji Li and Ji Huan’s faces darkened with turmoil. They simply were not happy at all with the marriage bestowed by the Emperor. In particular, Ji Li looked as if he were about to bite someone’s head off. They didn’t say a single word, but the atmosphere clearly was rather awkward.

The eunuch paused for a moment as he puzzled over it, why would Secretary Ji and General Ji be so upset with such a momentous cause for celebration? Could there have been some mistake with the edict he had just announced?

Just as he was mulling over this issue, Ji Muqing hurriedly stuffed some silver into his hands. It was no less than ten silver taels. That was equivalent to several months’ worth of his salary! He was delighted and quickly stuffed the silver into his waist pocket.

Ji Muqing was full of smiles, “Many thanks, gonggong. This is merely a token of appreciation that we hope gonggong won’t disdain.”

“Prince Yi Consort is too polite. If there’s anything that this servant may help with in future, please feel free to call upon me.”

“I will.”

“Then this servant will return to the palace for my duties. The palace staff in charge of the wedding ceremony will be along soon.”

“Mn.”

“This servant takes his leave.” The eunuch left with his entourage.

Ji Muqing hugged the imperial edict to her chest. She was so emotional that her eyes had become red-rimmed as she nibbled shyly at her lips. She was so happy she felt like she could float up into the clouds. However, when she saw the expressions of Ji Li and Ji Huan, her heart erupted in fury again. She lifted her chin proudly, “Now that the Emperor has issued an edict to bestow marriage, and I will become the lawfully wedded Consort of Prince Yi when we marry in three days’ time. No one can stop this.”

She directed the words specifically at Ji Li and Ji Huan.

However, Ji Li pulled a long face as he looked at her, expression as dark as charcoal, “This was your own choice; don’t regret it in the future.”

“Big Brother, I don’t know why you must obstruct me. Now that I’ve become Prince Yi’s Consort, our Ji family will also rise in glory. It would also be much easier for you and Second Brother to do your jobs in the imperial court. With how considerate I’ve been for you, couldn’t you be happy for me? After that eunuch saw your expressions earlier, he will surely gossip when he gets back to the palace.”

So THAT’s what she was worried about! Ji Li glared at her fiercely. With a furious sweep of his long sleeves, he left the mansion without saying where he was heading.

Ji Muqing was also so furious that her face was flushed red. It should have been a joyous occasion, but it just had to turn into such a disaster. She looked towards Ji Huan, “Second Brother, I know that you rarely have much of an opinion, and have always simply gone along with Big Brother. However, just this once, you should know what is good or bad, shouldn’t you? Big Brother doesn’t want me to be Prince Yi’s Consort, but you should understand that if I enter the Imperial Family, I’m not the only one who will receive glory.”

Hah! Ji Huan rarely has an opinion? Woman, you’ve offended me. Ji Huan also glared moodily at Ji Muqing, wondering, how did he have such a sister? It was a good thing that they didn’t share a mother as well, or he would be as furious as Ji Li.

……

He replied, “Muqing, I’m simply a person who doesn’t have much of an opinion. If Big Brother says it is so, then it’s so. You wouldn’t understand the complicated relationships that are involved.”

“Why wouldn’t I understand it?”

“I have nothing to say to you.”

“You…”

Ji Huan clicked his tongue and left as well. He thought to himself, You’re a moron, not Prince Yi’s Consort!

[1] 'gonggong' is a term that refers to an eunuch that serves within the imperial palace.

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