As winter began to melt into spring, the weather in Fengcheng remained icy and cold. The previous night had brought with it a meter of snow, packed tightly in layers, which persisted even through the daytime.
The lake within the Wuhuan Palace grounds had not been spared. Its surface was covered with thin chunks of ice, which floated here and there over the still water. The reflection of the fading sunset only intensified the tranquil feeling in the court.
On the lake, a pair of ducks floated on the surface. From time to time, one of them would call out a lonely lament.
On such a cold day, people hid within their homes and huddled around their charcoal fireplaces. Even the bustling streets and marketplaces had become isolated and abandoned. Within the palace, there were still guards patrolling here and there, but their numbers had decreased compared to the previous days. A small garden like this became forgotten.
In the distance, a spherical figure could be seen walking in the snow. They looked as if they could fall and roll onto the ground at any moment, making a comical sight.
A pair of lotus-green robed servant girls caught sight of this figure, their faces becoming ugly. They stooped down, calling to a young lady in the pavilion.
“Princess¹, ‘His Royal Highness the Crown Prince’ has arrived.”
The young lady, dressed in a powder white dress and marten
fur coat, slowly raised an eyebrow. Slowly, she swept her gaze out to the snow, lifting a pair of slim white fingers from over the warm and adjusting the indigo blue fabric that pooled at its edges. Her mouth curled up into an expression of disdain.
The person slowly waddling over wasn’t just anyone, but rather the Yelang Dynasty’s most ridiculed and useless crown prince, Huangfu Chang’an.
Just looking at this spherical crown prince clad in a thick jacket and a glaring yellow fur reminded one uncannily of a pomelo
. Perhaps because he had walked for such a great distance, every step of that round ball was unsteady and required great effort, as if one misstep would result him rolling into the nearby creek.
As he had walked all the way from Qin Palace at a great speed, the Crown Prince gasped for breath as he finally approached. He slowed down, unable to stop himself from taking a break from his exertion.
As he raised his head to look at the pavilion, he saw the ridiculing faces of the pretty young girl and her two servants. The young lady’s dainty face couldn’t mask the disdain it held, causing the Crown Prince’s heart to ache. As as result, he hurried his steps as he approached her.
“You finally came,” the young woman sitting on the pavilion said, raising her eyebrows as she gave a shallow laugh. Her beauty was brilliant enough to move people’s hearts. “I almost fell asleep waiting for you.”
Huangfu Chang’an raised an arm to remove his cap, revealing a pair of red and frostbitten chubby cheeks. His forehead was in completely disarray, cutting an extremely sorry figure.
Because he had hurried when he walked, he hadn’t taken the time to take a proper breath. As a result, he wasn’t able to talk beyond a single hesitant word.
The beautiful and dainty young woman no longer bothered to hear any of his excuses. Her disdainful expression turned into disgust as she looked at him.
“Hurry up and tell me then. Since Your Majesty the Crown Prince has specifically summoned me for a meeting, why don’t you give me a reason?”
If it wasn’t for her Father’s orders, she wouldn’t have even bothered to meet with this disgusting and fat Crown Prince. Looking at him made her eyes feel dirty, while listening to even a single word he said was enough to make her feel nauseous.
Huangfu Chang’an took a deep breath, than hurriedly said, “You… you can’t marry Eldest Imperial Brother!”
The young woman raised a steep eyebrow, coldly asking, “And why can’t I?”
Huangfu Chang’an bit his lip, not daring to continue speaking.
“Heh,” the young woman smiled, standing up and resting the hand warmer onto the table. She slowly walked in front of Huangfu Chang’an, narrowing her eyes as she lowly asked, “Because, you like that Eldest Imperial Brother of yours?”
Although it was phrased as a question, her manner of speaking was extremely assertive.
Feeling his state of mind erupt into sudden disarray, Huangfu Chang’an immediately denied her statement. “I don’t!”
“You don’t? Ha, do you think everyone around you is blind? Who doesn’t know around here that you’re a homosexual? Who doesn’t know that you gather gigolos
around you that all bear a close resemblance to Eldest Imperial Brother? Who doesn’t know that you’ve intruded Eldest Imperial Brother’s private quarters to peek on him taking baths? Who doesn’t know…”
Seeing the other person’s pale white face, the young lady’s laughter became even louder. “Where is there any other person like you under the Heavens? You’re regarded by everyone as nothing but a joke, but it seems you aren’t even the slightest bit self-aware! Just looking at you right now, do you really think that your love for the Eldest Prince will bear fruit? All you’ll do is blacken his name, staining his reputation!”
“You slut! Shut up!”
Being insulted in such a manner, even the most timid of people would burn with fury. Huangfu Chang’an’s mind became filled with rage, his hand raising as if to slap her face.Slap!
The loud sound of a palm meeting flesh scared off an egret swimming in the nearby lake.
Huangfu Chang’an grabbed his burning face, not daring to believe what had just occurred. “You have courage! How dare you, a humble woman, slap the Crown Prince?!”
Shangguan Jingyao shook out her hand. An unmatchable disgust appeared on her face as she looked at him, hmphing coldly.
“Crown Prince? Someone like you can qualify?! Why don’t you look in a mirror and see that half-human, half-ghoul appearance for yourself? If you pulled just anyone off the streets, even they would look more like a crown prince than you!”
As she spoke, Shangguan Jingyao slowly approached again. Her gaze was cold and ruthless, a sinister expression peeking through her dainty face.
“You stole the Eldest Prince’s position. So what if I hit you? I still want to…”
Being pierced by her terrifying expression, Huangfu Chang’an couldn’t help but back away two steps. “You… what do you want to do?! This is the Imperial Palace… if you dare spew any more random defamations I’ll…”
Shangguan Jingyao couldn’t bother with any more of his drivel. In one movement she grabbed him by his collar, then pushed him in the direction of the icy creek behind them—
“You moron, go die!”
Huangfu Chang’an tried to scream. Quickly, however, he fell into the icy river, grasping onto a chunk of ice within the water.
The icy water forced tremors all over Huangfu Chang’an’s body. Fortunately, as he had worn a great deal of clothing on his body, he was not completely drenched. His round body had also propelled him to the surface of the water.
Huangfu Chang’an did not know how to swim. Terrified, he struggled on the surface of the water.
“Someone, help! Help me! Someone, come…! Save… save me!”
Shangguan Jingyao stood by the side of the river, her expression joyful. As she watched that disgusting fellow struggle in the water, her mood considerably lifted.
This idiot, in order to draw her out to meet, had unexpectedly actually sent away all the guards and servants in the vicinity per their agreement. Such a good opportunity was definitely not something she could waste. As long as he died, the heir to the throne would definitely transfer to the Eldest Prince Wuyi. That man was definitely the Yelang Dynasty’s rightful emperor!
“Don’t bother yelling. Has ‘His Majesty the Crown Prince’ forgotten? All of the servants were sent away by you in the early morning. No matter how loud you are, no one will hear you. It’s better to obediently… go meet your maker!”
The two servants at her side delighted in his suffering. Under their master’s directions, they kicked away the round ball that was currently trying to grasp onto the stone pieces surrounding the river.
The river water was icy cold. Gradually, Huangfu Chang’an ran out of energy, unable to release any more sound. Still, he didn’t give up on living just yet. He reached out to grab anything that would let him remain on the water surface.
“Yan-er,” Shangguan Jingyao said, lifting an eyebrow. She turned around to the river, catching her eye on one of the nearby tree branches around the banks. “Use that.”
The servant nodded, reaching for the branch. When she returned, she extended out the branch, whacking the struggling figure in the water in the head. With a strong push of the branch, Huangfu Chang’an had been pushed out into open water, unable to grab anything.
After a while, the figure in the water no longer moved. Slowly, it sank down into the water.
Shangguan Jingyao bit her lip and smiled, turning around to face her two maidservants.
Yan-er immediately set the tree branch back to where she had originally grabbed it. Then, hurriedly, she ran out of the garden shouting, “Something’s wrong! Something’s wrong! Someone come! The Crown Prince has drowned! The Crown Prince has drowned!”
Looking at the now-still surface of the river, Shangguan Jingyao’s beautiful face was extremely frigid.
“…the title of Emperor, of course, can only go to Big Brother Wujie. And the title of Empress can only go to me, Shangguan Jingyao!”
¹【郡主】Literally, ‘County Lord’. An archaic way of referring to princesses back in the Tang/Song dynasties