“Young Noble Liu, is my mother consort alright?” Princess Duanyang’s green skirt lightly brushed past the light grey lotus flower bricks. When they had left, she thought of every possible method to shoo away the female official aunty, all for the sake of gaining a priceless stretch of road with Liu Fuyi.
She didn’t dare look directly into Liu Fuyi’s eyes. Within the topics she purposely tried to bring up, a weak wobble abounded.
“Don’t worry, there isn’t anything.” Liu Fuyi’s smile was light. He was used to looking others in the eye when speaking and the sincerity within his eyes made people who saw them, find it difficult to refuse or deny him.
Duanyang shot him a lightning fast glance out the corner of her eyes. Her voice turned even softer, “That’s good then…”
They arrived at the entrance of Fengyang Palace. The young princess still wanted to spend some precious time with the person within her heart, unwilling to leave him just like that. However, the gates of the palace were suddenly pushed out from the inside out of the blue. A palace maid that looked like a chibi1  Chibi: Japanese trend of drawing/portraying characters with an extra large head for a big bonus to the cuteness stat. doll dashed out and threw herself like a baby swallow that hadn’t yet learned to fly towards Duanyang, “Your highness!”
“Peiyu?” Duanyang finally saw clearly who it was but felt extremely stuffy within her heart, “What’s wrong?”
Peiyu lifted Duanyang’s arm, face filled with worry: “Your highness, you received a shock. It’s hot outside, hurry and come in under the shade.” Then, she shot a brilliant smile at Liu Fuyi, “Sorry for inconveniencing you.”
Liu Fuyi stood at a distance and calmly sized up Peiyu once. Then, he tactfully withdrew. Duanyang’s face however, was immediately covered with a disappointed expression: “Young Noble Liu…”
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“Tao Ying said to me that as long as the Goddess was returned to her rightful place, this consort’s destiny would start to walk the correct path.”
Mu Yao frowned: “The Goddess’s rightful place?”
“Yes.” Dowager Consort Zhao let out a long sigh. The lines at the edges of her eyes seemed to become more visible, “At the time, Minmin was only five years old. She didn’t know anything. This consort asked him: How would we return the Goddess to her rightful place?”
And then, her expression turned ugly and unnatural. Her lips curled downwards and her expression became filled with dread and resentment, “Tao Ying told me to bring Princess Duanyang into Xingshan Temple on the tenth day of the ninth month and call the commoners to worship the Goddess. After the ceremony, the Goddess will have returned to her rightful place. This matter is of utmost secrecy, you must let no one else know of it.”
Mu Yao’s gaze turned even colder, almost as if they were two laser beams directly piercing through Dowager Consort Zhao’s forehead: “The tenth of the ninth month, did our highness attend?”
Dowager Consort Zhao lowered her head to look at her teacup. She entered a taciturn state. After a long time, she clenched her teeth and the veins on her forehead popped out, “Originally, Xingshan Temple had three head monks, all of who were this consort’s trusted aides. On that very night, one of them came back and informed this consort that in Tao Ying and company’s dwellings, they discovered a large amount of fire starter and straw.”
Silence hung over the spacious hall. Even the song of cicadas coming from outside seemed to be muffled.
“Your highness, did you go and question Tao Ying upon finding that something in the situation was off?”
”I trusted Tao Ying and company wholeheartedly. I provided them with good food and drinks…” Dowager Consort Zhao bit her teeth, “This consort asked him what exactly the ‘ceremony’ entailed and he told this consort that the Goddess’s rightful place was to be burned at the stake. Her soul would be in bliss as it returned to the heavens as she achieved nirvana and was reborn.”
The three of them weakly rested their backs against their chairs. Now, they could see that these few people weren’t actually from the Tantric Sect either, they were a group of self-immolating evil cultists that had mixed into the Imperial family’s temple.
Ling Miaomiao couldn’t help but insert herself: “She would only return to the heavens after she dies: All this that Tao Ying said, did you believe him, your highness?”
Dowager Consort Zhao tightly clenched her cup and her expression sunk into a complicated silence.
“I heard that the previous empress had a serious ailment. Whenever the weather turned cold, her body would steadily deteriorate.” Mu Sheng’s voice echoed in the hall. His crow black lashes covered up the emotions within his eyes. The corner of his mouth curled up, “Her highness was half doubtful, half believing within. Only, when the crucial moment arrived, she could only try desperately to keep things afloat. Right?”
These words of his were spoken especially harshly, so harsh that Dowager Consort Zhao’s hand that held her teacup blanched from her grip.
“Tao Ying promised this consort that after being consumed by fire, it would only be the Goddess’s soul that returns to her rightful place. Nothing would happen to the princess.” She seemed to be trying to justify herself but saw the strange expressions on everyone in front of her. Thus, she lightly led on with, “On the tenth day of the ninth month, this consort carried Minmin in my arms. She didn’t understand anything and was continuously making a fuss in this consort’s arms… making a fuss because she wanted to eat osmanthus cakes…”
Mu Yao let out a long sigh: “Mothers and daughters are connected with their hearts. Your highness, you couldn’t bear to put her in any danger…”
Using a daughter for the sake of benefits was something ruthless warmongering emperors had tried before. However, as long as this thought went through the heads of a mother, as long as she thought about it, she would feel the idea of using her daughter for benefits weighing down on her heart like a mountain. Every time her daughter sweetly called out ‘mother’, the mountain would grow in weight.
That’s why, in the last few years, Dowager Consort Zhao pampered Princess Duanyang to the ends of the earth. It wasn’t only due to her desire to pamper her, it was also guilt.
Dowager Consort Zhao let out a mocking smile: “Couldn’t bear to…”
“But, your highness was also unwilling to give up hope. So you thought of two completely perfect methods.” Mu Yao’s gaze immediately turned cold, just like a stream of rushing water turning into ice instantaneously. The words that came out of her mouth turned more and more severe with each successive word. “That’s why you found a girl with the exact same birthday, month and age as the princess to act as Princess Duanyang’s substitute. She was going to be the test subject for this pyre, to see if she would really achieve nirvana and be reborn.”
Dowager Consort Zhao silently listened to her speak. Her delicately arranged makeup had somewhat cracked. Her face which no longer contained any youthfulness was clearly marked by malevolence and speechlessness.
“Your highness, did she achieve nirvana?”
Within the spacious and luxurious Xingshan Temple, two Bodhisattvas opened the path. A young girl dressed in the most gorgeous clothes, wearing heavy gold bands, was bound to the altar.
The rising and falling voices were like the drifting of ghosts, making the air ring with a frenetic ferver and excitement that caused people to tremble.
In the empty space above the hall, there was a mural drawn with indigo and cinnabar. A large ten petal lotus floated high above their heads, layering and intersecting on top of each other, red like blood and blue like the underworld.
The flame’s glow pierced into the sky and in an instant, the sacrifice altar turned into a ball of fire. Sharp screams seemed to cut the skin of all the people like blades.
She woke up from her dream instantly.
“And what did your highness do after?” Mu Sheng pressed forward, “Upon seeing that things were not going well, you decided to run away, causing them to close the hall gates…”
“No, no… you all don’t understand!” Dowager Consort Zhao stared at the faces of Mu Yao and brother. Her gaze was like a viper’s curved tongue, frantically flitting about, “Not this consort! It was Tao Ying, that guy is basically insane! He poured oil over the entirety of Xingshan Temple! He was simply —- just simply someone who wanted everyone to die together!”
The situation had escaped Dowager Consort Zhao’s control. In that extremely hair-raising moment, she suddenly gained clarity, realizing how absurd this scam was. However, if other people were to learn how ridiculous returning the Goddess was…
”You said that Tao Ying wanted to be a martyr in fire, then what about those three head monks? When you commanded them to lock up the temple doors, did you think about them?” The smell of fury repeatedly became more obvious within Mu Yao’s voice, “Inside there, were people who didn’t want to die. When you locked up the doors, you were only thinking of completely covering up this matter, you didn’t hear the sound of people urgently hitting the door from the inside?”
Death was far more terrifying than one could imagine. In the face of terrible pain, all life would try to follow their innate instincts.
Who wouldn’t want to live? Who was willing to die?
Unfortunately, it was all already too late.
Dowager Consort Zhao’s forehead dripped with sweat. Her face had gone deathly white and a smile full of exhaustion and grief emerged.
“All the way until late in the morning did the news travel to the previous emperor. He was told that Tao Ying and company were evil practitioners and they were self-immolating… the great fire burned for an entire day and night. The temple’s shell still existed but the people inside had already long turned into burnt ashes. The people who were part of it were all there. Nobody knew what this consort was going there on the tenth of the ninth month for.
A sneer flashed through her eyes: “No, there was still one person who knew.”
“That person was this consort’s close, blood-related family. The current Son of Heaven. Before all of this happened, this consort was muddle-headed and out of fear of having no more days with my two children, the three of us, I brought Minmin to go see her brother. I spoke a lot with him, and in all likelihood, the secret was revealed there.” She lightly curled up her lips, “…that’s why, everything must have been done out of retribution.”
Having been raised by the empress, he had matured early and become taciturn. He could guess the holes in her plans but he didn’t expose his mother. However, ever since then, there was a deep loathing and disgust born within him towards her.
The imperial family’s newly built Xingshan Temple had met with a calamity of fire. Hundreds of people died painful deaths, incited evil happenings, and alarmed the pampered consort: it was an absolutely ominous omen.
The previous emperor pampered and favored Zhao Min and as such, passed on the order to seal up the old temple. He constructed a new temple in the exact shape and mold of the old one outside of the palace, and even used tough methods to suppress all information on it.”
Ten years had passed and people now only knew that the temple within the city was the imperial family’s temple. Yet, they didn’t know that the temple on the outskirts of the city was the true body.
“These are matters involving the living, how could they be counted as retribution?” Mu Sheng’s face was completely different from Dowager Consort Zhao’s, happy and light. His voice was also very light, almost as if he was telling a bedtime story, “We’ll have to see if the ghosts who died unwillingly are ever willing to let go of your highness and the princess.”
Dowager Consort Zhao suddenly lifted her head, extremely frightened: “You’re saying… you mean that…”
“Your highness, you heard me correctly.” Mu Sheng let an extremely lively and gorgeous smile blossom on his face, “For every debt, there is a debtor. How is a bit of hallucinogens capable of causing the princess to have nightmares every single night? That palace maid just now must’ve gained an ample amount of unjust treatment.”
“Your highness.” The hall doors were suddenly pushed open and a female official aunty’s anxious face appeared, hastily saying: “His Majesty has arrived.”
Before her words had completely fallen onto their ears, her body was lifted to the side by a body clothed in black court dress. The young Son of Heaven brought with him the heat of the summer season as he rolled into the hall like a perilous situation.
The tea on the table was already cold. The Son of Heaven possessed a mien that looked like it had been carved out of stone, hewn from marble. His pair of dark pupils were just like a thick stroke with a brush, the ink hooking upwards and flowing with a noble air.
Ling Miaomiao took a look and woah, surprisingly the Son of Heaven before her had the same eyes as Mu Sheng.
He hadn’t changed out of his court dress before hurriedly rushing over. The crimson setting sun brought the golden lines on his court dress to new levels of brilliance and colors. He darkly looked around the hall once and, completely ignoring the visitors at the side, spoke rudely to Dowager Consort Zhao: “Peiyun was sent to Duanyang’s palace by Zhen2  Zhen: The way for emperors to refer to themselves. I didn’t want to use ‘This Emperor’ so Zhen it is. Tell little potato if y’all prefer ‘This Emperor’ . Mother consort, you didn’t differentiate between right and wrong before grabbing Zhen’s people, did you ask for Zhen’s opinion?”
They didn’t think they’d be witness to the confrontation between mother and child so quickly. Dowager Consort Zhao’s mind still hadn’t moved on from the conversation they had just not too long ago. She stared at him with a pale face.
The Son of Heaven didn’t like his birth mother and was even more indifferent towards matters of gods and ghosts.
Such a tall Astrologist depended on weather forecasts for so many years. They had raised so many arrogant exorcists yet not a single one dared to have a pique of temper in front of the Son of Heaven.
At the current moment, Mu Sheng, Mu Yao and Ling Miaomiao were all naturally considered part of the exorcist group. Under the Son of Heaven’s annoyed sweeping glance, they felt the tip of a blade on their backs.
Mu Sheng stood up, about the same height as the young Son of Heaven. The two handsome youths stood face to face. The Son of Heaven had his lips drawn tight while the black lotus had on a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
The two’s gaze intersected for a short moment before coldly moving on in short order. In that moment, the honorable Son of Heaven slightly puckered up his forehead.
Mu Sheng had already bent over at the waist to make his greetings. His lashes were pointed down and one couldn’t see the slightest sharpness within his polite and modest stance: “Please excuse me.”
 Chibi: Japanese trend of drawing/portraying characters with an extra large head for a big bonus to the cuteness stat.
 Zhen: The way for emperors to refer to themselves. I didn’t want to use ‘This Emperor’ so Zhen it is. Tell little potato if y’all prefer ‘This Emperor’
TLN: Hey there, Entropy reporting in again. Its been a while hasn’t it… I was supposed to be done with and over with my finals project 2 weeks ago and start posting/translating again then but… Covid suddenly had an outbreak 2 days before the expo so…. sigh.
Anyways, we should welcome the new co-translator ZZZZ \o/. She is going to be helping with translating at a rate of about 2~ chapters a week.
We’ll be going back to the normal 2 chapters a week so look forward to it!