Wen Jinkai didn't plan to visit the Emperor and Empress, but he was swept into an audience with them after being ambushed by a group of Eunuchs in an empty hallway. He didn't realize he had trespassed into this area yet again, the same space that Li Xueyue had gotten lost in last time.
Standing before the golden staircase leading up to the Emperor and Empress, Wen Jinkai had a blank expression on his face. He was here for less than a minute and was already bored by their presence. He nearly rolled his eyes upon hearing the squeamish and excited whispers of the Princesses seated near Emperor Fadong and Empress Huiyun.
Finally, Emperor Fadong spoke up. "What were you doing in that corridor, Jinkai?"
"I was on my way to visiting the Second Prince."
"But his living quarters are in the opposite direction from the one you have trespassed into," Emperor Fadong scolded, disapproval written all over his face. "Are you reminiscing again?"
Fourth Prince Wang Longhe's ears perked up with interest. Trespassed? There was a place that the almighty Wen Jinkai was not allowed entry into? Well, that's a first.
Wen Jinkai's face became frosty, his fierce eyes pierced a hole through the Emperor's head. This meddling old man talked too much. "Does it matter if I am?"
Empress Huiyun sighed. "Jinkai, you can't continue going there! I've already told you this before."
Wang Longhe's eyes enlarged and in an instant, he shot up, his chair loudly crashed onto the ground. He had placed two and two together. Poking a shaking finger at Wen Jinkai, he roared, "You snuck into Li Minghua's old living quarters?! Are you insane?"
Imperial Consort Gu Feiying let out an inaudible gasp. Firstly, she was startled by her son's rash and impudent actions, but she was even more shocked by the mention of a forbidden name. She shot a terrified glance in the Emperor's direction, swallowing deeply in fear that her son would incur his wrath.
A vein popped out from the Emperor's reddening forehead, his face dark and furious.
In the blink of an eye, a loud slap sounded throughout the room. Wang Longhe was sent flying to the ground, clutching his cheek in disbelief and horror. Whispers arose from all corners of the room.
A horrified scream could be heard when the Emperor raised his hand and men dressed in black surrounded the Prince. "Guards! Throw this degenerate into the Cold Palace!"
In an instant, Imperial Consort Gu Feiying shot out of her chair, collapsing to her knees beside her son. "Your Majesty, please, he wasn't thinking properly! He's just a boy, he's young and didn't know any better!" she cried out, shielding her son with her body, her voice laced with fear and despair.
She turned to her son, grabbed him by the shoulder and attempted to force him into a deep bow. "Snap out of it, Son. Hurry, apologize to your father, you rascal!"
Wang Longhe was frozen in his position, unyielding against the desperate pleas of his mother. His cheek stung, but the pain went beyond that, digging deep into his heart as if thorns had pricked his chest.
This was the second time he was struck in the face by his father. The first time was when Wang Longhe made a sinful confession of his love for a lady who could never be his, yet he had convinced his friend to give her up.
"No." Wang Longhe shook his head.
The audience room was shrouded in lethal silence as the Emperor's jaw ticked. The thick tension in the room suffocated the onlookers who held their breath, awaiting the next verdict.
Emperor Fadong's hands curled into a clenching fist. His infuriated eyes trembled like his fist. He tried to restrain his anger, but he could not. The mere mention of her name was enough for his patience to snap. He couldn't bring himself to hear the name of the only niece he cared about. She was someone he was supposed to shelter, but ruined her instead.
"What did you just say?"
"I'm not going to apologize. Enough is enough!" Wang Longhe snarled.
"Stop!" Imperial Consort Gu Feiying wailed as she turned to her son, shaking some sense into him. "You don't mean that, tell your father you don't mean it!"
She could see all of the Emperor's favor for her begin to disappear into thin air. The fear of losing it drove her to desperate means of forcing her son to kneel, but he resisted her.
Wang Longhe shrugged off his mother's grabbing hands. "I'm so tired of everyone tip-toeing around this issue as if it didn't happen! She mattered to me too, Father, her disappearance mattered to me as well! I loved her more than—"
"Finish that sentence and I'll kill you in front of your mother!" Wen Jinkai growled, his voice bouncing off the walls.
Wang Longhe's head snapped in Wen Jinkai's direction. "You have no right to be enraged by my words! Especially when you failed to protect her, you bastard—"
Wen Jinkai instantly unsheathed his sword, storming to the golden staircase. "Li Minghua wouldn't have needed my protection if you didn't behave like a crazy man in love with his own cousin!" he roared.
"Crazy?! I was trying to help her, you barely paid any attention to her after the Empress—"
"ENOUGH!" Emperor Fadong bellowed, his thunderous voice shaking the pillars in the throne room. He had reached his limit for the day.
"Guards, drag both Commander Wen Jinkai and the Fourth Prince to the Cold Palace. Under my jurisdiction, they will be locked in there for at least a week."
The Emperor turned to his shadow guards, the ones personally trained by Wen Jinkai.
The shadow guards moved to grab the Fourth Prince, but none of them dared to approach the Commander.
The Emperor scowled, his mood further dampening. "What are you waiting for? There is another—"
"These are my dogs," Wen Jinkai spat out. "You think they'll bite their owner?"
Emperor Fadong snapped. "What did you just say, boy?!" He didn't think his very own dog would bite the hand that fed him in front of such a large audience.
Empress Huiyun couldn't believe how things had escalated. When did all of this even start? She clenched her sharpened nails into her palm, digging it into her flesh. That damn Li Minghua. Even after her disappearance, she was still causing trouble at court! She was even more despicable absent than present!
The Empress knew she should've ended Li Minghua once and for all in the Palace instead of allowing that wench to flee to Hechen! Her thoughts spiraled to the day she left the Palace just to drag Li Minghua to the depths of hell. It was an opportunistic day when the Duke and Duchess were not home to shield their daughter, for they were too busy heading to the Capital to demand answers.
Empress Huiyun grounded her teeth, continuing to clench her fingers into her palms until blood trickled from her hand.
"I trained them into the guards they are today," Wen Jinkai said. "Do you really think they will turn their allegiance away from me?"
The Emperor's gaze narrowed. "I figured you'd say as much." He waved his hand and this time, a different set of guards rushed into the room, dressed significantly different from the shadow guards. "Your father deployed these men to me. You have severely disappointed me today, my boy."
Wen Jinkai slipped his sword back into his sheath. "Then I must let you know, I don't give a damn how you feel. You have no jurisdiction to drag me to the Cold Palace. Your command was an act upon your feelings."
Empress Huiyun decided enough was enough. "Jinkai, go to your room. Now."
Emperor Fadong's gaze snapped to his Empress. "What is the meaning of this—"
"Do you want to make a spectacle out of two sons in one day? Isn't one enough?" She kept her tone understanding and patient. "Boys will be boys. They don't think properly when they're afraid."
Both Wen Jinkai and Wang Longhe had to suppress an eyeroll. As if they could ever be terrified of a frail man who couldn't even defend himself.
"If I release one and punish the other, it's favoritism," the Emperor spat out. "They disrespected their Emperor. There are consequences for offending the Crown."
He turned to the guards brought to him by Duke Wen Xuan, Wen Jinkai's father. "What are you waiting for? Capture them!"
"You don't have to do this, my lord husband," Empress Huiyun said. "They were simply voicing their opinions to their father. They are your sons before they are your subjects!"
Emperor Fadong began to waver at her logical words. "They need to be punished—"
"Yes, but not like this, Your Majesty. They have already made a spectacle and a fool out of themselves by their behavior today." Empress Huiyun almost slipped out, 'Over a worthless woman who deserved to perish,' but she contained herself. It would only make things a lot worse.
A long pause ensued. Everyone watched as the Emperor's wrath slowly transformed into dissatisfaction. The Empress was right. There was no need for such a long-drawn punishment that would ruin their reputation.
"Very well," the Emperor concluded. "But bring them out of my sight this instant!"
Wang Longhe didn't need to be told twice. He stood up and helped his mother to her feet. In a fell swoop, he dusted off his clothes and left through the entrance by the side.
Wen Jinkai didn't leave. He continued to stand there, staring at the Emperor. "It's not my fault you hadn't moved on from her," he spat out. And before anyone could react, he stormed down the steps and out of the main entrance.
Please go to https://www.qzxyzy.com/The-Rise-of-Xueyue/
to read the latest chapters for free