Chapter 80 – Worshipping the Heavens
The imperial guard obviously did not expect His Royal Highness to question him, and panicked for a while.
Seeing the guard’s delay in responding to His Royal Highness, Zhao Yong quickly replied to the crown prince: “Replying to Your Royal Highness, this is Wu Zhi Jie from the imperial bodyguard vanguard. He was assigned here to assist with the worshipping ceremony. Before, he has always been working at the Black Tortoise Gate.”
Zhao Yong naturally knew the ins and outs of all the imperial bodyguards around the emperor. This time, there were a lot of princes coming out for the heaven worshipping ceremony. In order to ensure all the princes’ safety, there were guards specially transferred here for that purpose.
“Wu Zhi Jie?! How old are you this year? You look very young.” Xuan Yuan Han Cheng dug through his memories for information on this person.
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“Replying to Your Royal Highness, this servant is twenty-three this year.” Wu Zhi Jie did not dare to look His Royal Highness. He harbored a guilty conscience and at this moment he only wanted to leave as soon as possible.
Xuan Yuan Han Cheng finally remembered who Wu Zhi Jie was. Looking at Wu Zhi Jie’s shifty eyes, Xuan Yuan Han Cheng’s heart was full of alarm bells.
Xuan Yuan Han Cheng suddenly picked up the steaming soup on the table and handed it to Wu Zhi Jie. “Drink it.”
Seeing the soup in front of him, Wu Zhi Jie took a step back and knelt down. “This servant… this servant… doesn’t dare…”
Xuan Yuan Han Cheng knew from the look of him that there was something wrong with the soup, and looked at Wu Zhi Jie with a smiling yet not smiling expression, “I* bestow this on you, drink it now!”
[*T/N: XYHC used the word 孤 gu here to refer to himself. It means “lonely,” and it is how a monarch in ancient times might refer to himself. The other imperial pronoun that I often see in literature is 朕 zhen, which is the imperial We. Not sure if I’m reading too much into this, but it seems like a slip of the tongue for XYHC, since he is not yet the emperor at this point in time.]
Wu Zhi Jie knelt on the ground. His face was already covered with nervous sweat. “This servant… this servant… deserves to die…”
Xuan Yuan Zhao Shen knew that there was something wrong with the soup when the crown prince forced Wu Zhi Jie to drink it. He told Zhao Yong to find Imperial Physician Chen and send him over here. Imperial Physician Chen was the imperial physician who came along on this trip. He also ordered someone to stealthily look after Wu Zhi Jie.
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“How did you find out, Cheng Er?” From start to finish, Xuan Yuan Zhao Shen had not noticed that there was anything off about Wu Zhi Jie.
“Erchen found out by chance that this Wu Zhi Jie is born from Xue Gui’s extramarital affair. At first, I was just casually inquiring, but I did not expect him to be so panicked.”
[T/N: Reminder, 儿臣 erchen is a pronoun that means “your son and subordinate”]
This was information that Xuan Yuan Han Cheng had learned in his previous life. At that time, when the Xue family collapsed, Wu Zhi Jie was reported to be Xue Gui’s illegitimate son. Wu Zhi Jie had served in the imperial guard for many years. He had always depended on his own efforts and never participated in the affairs of the Xue family. Xuan Yuan Han Cheng did not kill him, only demoted him to the army. Unexpectedly, Wu Zhi Jie would do something like this in this life…
It turned out that with Xue Gui’s di son gone, he remembered that he had a comparatively outstanding illegitimate son.
Wu Zhi Jie’s mother worked in a brothel. When Xue Gui was young, he bought out her debt to the brothel, and then had her situated outside the Xue manor. Naturally, the Xue family could not accept the child of a prostitute, and Xue Gui’s eldest son was especially against it. In order to avoid unnecessary trouble, Xue Gui had kept it a secret all this time.
Wu Zhi Jie was also a determined hard worker. After his mother passed away, he joined the imperial guard by his own efforts. This time, for the sake of Prince Li, Xue Gui thought of Wu Zhi Jie, and figured that he was the best candidate for the job. To this end, he promised Wu Zhi Jie that he could return to the Xue manor as long as this job was accomplished. In addition, he would record him in the family register as the di son under Zhao-shi’s name. In this life, Wu Zhi Jie could not resist the allure of being a di son of the Xue family and agreed to do as Xue Gui commanded.
Imperial Physician Chen came in to examine the soup.
“Reporting to Your Majesty and Your Royal Highness, there is a colorless and odorless menghan drug* in this soup. If you drink this entire bowl of soup, I’m afraid you will fall into a coma for three days and three nights…”
[*T/N: 蒙汗药 menghan drug is a standard trope of Chinese literature, particularly in the historical, wuxia, and fantasy genres. The effects of the drug vary depending on the writer.]
Xuan Yuan Zhao Shen immediately instructed Zhao Yong: “Go and see if this midnight snack was delivered to anyone else. Go and stop it…”
Zhao Yong ran out like the speed of light. His entire body was covered in cold sweat. He had checked the soup with a silver needle, but he did not find anything wrong with it. This Wu Zhi Jie was really hateful. No wonder he kept pestering Zhao Yong, saying that he wanted to show his face in front of the emperor. It turned out that he had bad intentions.
Translations by Vanilla Muse.
Zhao Yong ran outside in a hurry. After a while, he came back panting for air.
“Reporting to Your Majesty, the midnight snack was delivered to the crown prince and the other four princes. Asides from the second prince, who was shadowboxing and did not drink it, the other three princes had already drank the soup and fell asleep.”
Xuan Yuan Zhao Shen asked Imperial Physician Chen seriously, “Is there an antidote to this menghan drug?”
Imperial Physician Chen replied: “Replying to Your Majesty, this menghan drug must have come from the pugilistic world*. Please allow this subject to go back and examine the medicinal ingredients used in this menghan drug, and then make the mixture.”
[*T/N: Veteran readers of Chinese wuxia literature should be familiar with the term 江湖 jianghu. It translates to “rivers and lakes” and refers to a martial arts society that operates independently of mainstream society, out of reach of the law. I have seen it translated as pugilistic world by other translators before, which sounded good to me.]
Xuan Yuan Zhao Shen nodded, “Time is of the essence…”
“Understood.” The imperial physician withdrew.
Now, only Xuan Yuan Zhao Shen and Xuan Yuan Han Cheng were left in the tent. The two of them looked at each other.
Xuan Yuan Han Cheng said, “Imperial Father, I’m afraid that this was a joint operation of Prince Li and the Xue family. Why don’t we beat them at their own game…”