Yu Hanjiang’s conjecture was only a theoretical speculation and the actual evidence was only a piece of cloth that Lin Shaobo had held onto tightly. The colour and material were the same as the guard’s uniform and it was the most critical physical evidence in this case.
Yu Hanjiang thought up to here and glanced at Long Sen. “How many sets of clothing do the guards in the prince’s mansion have?”
Long Sen replied, “Everyone has two sets of the same colour and style for changing and washing.”
“You are the leader of the guards. Once you go back, call all the guards and carefully check their clothing. Check the one they are wearing and their other set of clothing. See if anyone is missing a piece or if there are traces of repair.”
Long Sen immediately nodded. “Understood, I’ll check it.”
No matter who was the mastermind behind the scene, the one most likely to kill Lin Shaobo was a royal guard. Otherwise, Lin Shaobo wouldn’t tear off the murderer’s sleeve during the struggle. Looking for the murderer based on the physical evidence was currently the safest way.
In order to find out if the Eight Prince was involved in a rebellion, Yu Hanjiang decided to go back to the Yu family’s home in Jiangzhou to question his grandfather. According to the setting, his grandfather was the prime minister and later resigned to return to his hometown. Yu Hanjiang also grew up in Jiangzhou with his grandfather.
When Yu Hanjiang was a child, he served as the crown prince’s companion for a period of time. In this world, his age was similar to that of the crown prince. In other words, he and the emperor were in their early 20s while his grandfather’s age was over 70, just like the late emperor. His grandfather might know some secrets.
At noon that day, Yu Hanjiang took Xiao Lou back to the Yu family’s home.
Yu Hanjiang’s father didn’t become an official. He wrote poems and painted all day, becoming an idle literary scholar living in Jiangzhou. Yu Hanjiang’s father had tried to stop him when he headed to Beijing to take the exam. Unfortunately, Yu Hanjiang was stubborn and came back after getting first place.
The Yu family lived on the outskirts of Jiangzhou. The entire courtyard was quiet and simple and it looked like a scholar’s home.
Entering the house, Yu Hanjiang inexplicably felt a sense of familiarity. After all, he grew up here according to the plot setting.
The guard at the door saw him and was surprised. He exclaimed excitedly, “The young master and young madam are back? I have to report it!”
Yu Hanjiang nodded and held Xiao Lou’s shoulder, gently leading him into the courtyard. The two people moved along the flagstone path to the lounge. Yu Hanjiang’s parents had received the news and rushed over. Yu Hanjiang and Xiao Lou greeted the elders together.
The two of them might not be Yu Hanjiang’s real parents and were characters in the plot but this could still be considered as being brought back to ‘see the parents.’ Xiao Lou felt awkward and had to accompany Yu Hanjiang with daring action. He called out, “Father, Mother.”
Father Yu asked, “Hanjiang, when did you come to Jiangzhou to take office? Why didn’t you come home?”
Yu Hanjiang explained, “There were many business matters to handle when I first arrived in Jiangzhou. I have been very busy these days. I only found some time to go home today. Father, Mother, how has your health been recently?”
Mother Yu smiled. “Your father and I are doing very well but we haven’t seen each other for three years. Aren’t you a lot thinner?” She looked at Xiao Lou, face full of love. “Xiao Lou, you followed Hanjiang to the capital. Didn’t you suffer a lot?”
“Mother, you shouldn’t say this. My husband is busy in the capital and I should accompany him.”
He felt nauseous himself at this line but he still had to act hard.
Yu Hanjiang quickly changed the topic. “Where is Grandpa? Why isn’t he home?”
Father Yu replied, “Your grandfather goes fishing in the mountains every day. He hasn’t come back yet.”
Mother Yu glanced at Xiao Lou and said, “Just stay here to eat. I’ll ask the kitchen to prepare some delicious food for you.”
Xiao Lou and Yu Hanjiang chatted with their parents for a while. It wasn’t until lunchtime that his grandfather came back with a fishing rod and fishing basket. There were some freshly caught fish in the basket. The old man’s eyes narrowed with joy when he saw his grandson and granddaughter returning and he immediately gave the fish to the chef to cook soup.
Xiao Lou stayed in the room to talk to Mother Yu while Yu Hanjiang found a chance to talk to his grandfather alone in the study. He briefly told his grandfather about what happened in the prince’s mansion.
Don’t look at Grandfather Yu’s old age. His mental state was very good. Once he heard that there was a death in the prince’s mansion, the old man frowned slightly and touched his long beard. “This isn’t easy. You have to investigate carefully and also protect yourself. If there is something you shouldn’t know, pretend not to know so you don’t cause trouble for yourself.”
Yu Hanjiang heard his grandfather’s meaning and whispered, “Grandfather, you’ve been the late emperor’s prime minister for over 10 years. Why did the late emperor pass the throne to his grandson instead of the prince?”
Grandpa Yu sighed. “Ah… this is a long story. It was also the late emperor’s last resort.”
Yu Hanjiang sat next to him and listened carefully. “A last resort? What is the reason?”
Grandpa Yu started the story. “The heirs of the late emperor were weak and many of the princes died soon after they were both. Only five princes survived, the first prince, the third prince, the fifth prince, the sixth prince and the eighth prince. The first prince was the eldest and born of the empress. The late emperor loved the eldest prince most and made him the crown prince when he was still an infant.”
A hint of sorrow filled the old man’s face as he thought about what happened in those years. “The crown prince was talented, kind-hearted, humble and studious. The ministers also thought he would be the best successor. However, when he was 20 years old, he went out to hunt, was injured by a poisonous arrow and was killed on the spot. After investigating, it was discovered that the third prince had sent someone to do it. His Majesty was so angry that he gave the third prince a cup of poison.”
Yu Hanjiang was stunned. “It turned out that the third prince was being the assassination of the crown prince? His Majesty killed him in a fit of rage.”
“Yes, this is a secret of the royal family and it isn’t easy for rumours to spread. After the early death of the eldest prince, the position of crown prince was temporarily empty. His Majesty wanted to investigate the other princes and make a decision but it didn’t take long for the empress to also die of illness. A later investigation found that it was done by Imperial Concubine Shu. Imperial Concubine Shu poisoned and killed the queen and then Imperial Concubine Ming poisoned her. It was found that the forces behind the fifth and sixth prince were involved since the concubines were their mothers.”
“The concubines of the harem used poisonous means to compete for favour and this made the emperor lose heart. Thus, he secretly made a decree that once he died, all his concubines would be buried with him.”
Yu Hanjiang listened to the story and felt a thrill. He thought carefully before saying, “The third prince was giving poisoned wine by the late emperor. The fifth and sixth prince joined with their mothers, the concubines to seize power but the eight prince… in other words, the eighth prince didn’t participate in the fight for the crown prince’s position. Why didn’t the late emperor consider making him the crown prince?”
Grandpa Yu smiled. “The eight prince is the one who can see the most thoroughly. Among the late prince’s several sons, he was well-educated and talented. He was the best candidate to be crown prince. The late emperor consulted us ministers and everyone suggested the eight prince. However, just as the late emperor was about to establish the eight prince as the crown prince, the eight prince took the initiative to make a compromise. He suggested that the late emperor establish the rule that the throne could only be passed onto the first son of the empress. If there is a legitimate son to pass it onto, it must go to the eldest son and can’t be out of order, so as to avoid a struggle among future generations for the throne.”
Historically, it wasn’t uncommon for there to be a bloody battle over the crown prince’s position. At that time, the eighth prince and his mother had no power. If the late emperor had made him the crown prince, he would’ve become the next scapegoat and be suppressed by the fifth and sixth princes. Was he really powerless at the time or was he a tiger pretending to be a pig, waiting for the best time?
His grandfather’s next statement gave Yu Hanjiang the answer. “In the year when the late emperor died, the crown prince succeeded the throne. At that time, the crown prince was only 18 years old. The fifth and sixth princes fought him and the eighth prince helped the crown prince. His Majesty might’ve been young but he was far-sighted. He had long expected that his two uncles wouldn’t stay still and made arrangements in advance when the late emperor was seriously ill. It was a pity for the two princes. They despised their young nephew too much and were shot dead by arrows in the palace. His Majesty used the excuse of ‘illness’ and buried them.”
Yu Hanjiang, “…”
This year’s matter, Yu Hanjiang had just passed the examination and didn’t know about it. He only realized after listening to his grandfather.
Many of the struggles in the imperial palace were secrets that couldn’t be circulated. Although Grandpa Yu was old and hiding in Jiangzhou, there were several high-ranking ministers of the court who were the old man’s proud pupils. He had his own source of information.
Yu Hanjiang heard this and couldn’t help wondering. If the eighth prince really wanted to rebel then wouldn’t it be easier when the emperor had just ascended the throne and his status was still unstable? Why help the emperor calm the rebellion of the two other princes?
Now the crown prince had been in power for four years and most of the ministers were convinced by the emperor. The emperor had gradually cultivated his own people so the eighth prince had missed the best opportunity to rebel. Was it true that the eighth prince was an idle prince who only loved beauty and had no intention of being involved in politics?
Yu Hanjiang frowned and fell into contemplation.
Grandpa Yu lamented, “In the royal family, many concubines, princes and princesses died in vain. The Eighth Prince and Ninth Princess are the few relatives of the emperor left.”
Yu Hanjiang suddenly remembered the emperor’s secret letter to the Eighth Prince…
Was his guess wrong?
Just then, his mother called them to go and eat. Yu Hanjiang helped his elderly grandfather and went together. The family ate a meal around the dining table. Yu Hanjiang chatted with his parents for a while before taking Xiao Lou to leave.
After leaving the Yu home, Xiao Lou smiled and asked, “How about it? Did you get anything out of this trip?”
Yu Hanjiang whispered, “Our reasoning might be wrong again.”
“You’re saying that the eighth prince isn’t trying to rebel?”
Yu Hanjiang nodded. “Based on my grandfather’s description, the eighth prince isn’t like that type of person. It is said that when the late emperor died and the crown prince took the throne, the fifth and sixth princes joined forces. It was His Majesty and the eighth prince who settled the rebellion. The two princes were shot and killed in the palace. If the eighth prince wanted to rebel then there is no need to wait until the emperor’s wings are full.”
Xiao Lou heard this and felt some surprise. “Then the eighth prince is actually very loyal to today’s emperor?”
“Since His Majesty is a far-sighted person, if he is afraid of the eighth prince then he wouldn’t be silly enough to let Princess Sukan marry the Zhao state’s prince, leaving such a big hidden danger behind him.”
Xiao Lou thought carefully. “Allowing the eighth prince and the Zhao state to form an alliance, does this mean His Majesty actually trusts the eighth prince?”
Yu Hanjiang thought about it. “His Majesty also gave the eighth prince a secret letter. I don’t know what was written there. Perhaps our reasoning is off. The eighth prince isn’t rebelling but is working with His Majesty… to suppress the possible rebellious forces in Jiangzhou?”
Xiao Lou’s eyes lit up. “This makes sense. The prince changes from a villain to someone righteous. There is someone who wants to rebel but it isn’t the eighth prince. He is on the same boat as the emperor?”
The process of reasoning was like pulling off a cocoon. One way of thinking was wrong and it was immediately replaced with another one.
There were too many clues involved in the murder case at the prince’s mansion. At first, it was believed to be a fight between the family. The private affair of the fourth young lady and Lin Shaobo was discovered. Later, it was suspected that the eighth prince was rebelling…
Now it turned out that it was all wrong.
Lin Shaobo wasn’t the murderer, Guard Qin wasn’t the murderer and the Eighth Prince probably wasn’t the murderer.
So in the end, who sneaked into the palace on the prince’s birthday to kill two people?
Yu Hanjiang glanced at Xiao Lou. “I don’t know the progress on Long Sen’s side. Let’s go to the prince’s mansion to see.”