Broken tiles littered the ground, making the courtyard a complete mess. The dead atmosphere that surrounded the dungeon was exactly the same as it had always been. A crowd of people led by a servant girl rushed through the dungeon’s hallway, entering a worn-down brick room.
The run-down room’s ceiling had leaks, and the limestone floor was covered with blots of water from outside rain. The walls were missing quite a few tiles, and sinister-looking cracks covered all the walls. Freezing cold breezes whooshed through the holes in the roof and the chinks in the walls, flowing into the room. How could anyone ever live here; it was clearly a pig sty!
Seeing that the previously noble and flawlessly beautiful Empress ended up in such a place made a few of her closest aides cover their mouths with a gasp, making the already desolate atmosphere even worse.
A tattered wooden bed sat in the corner on the run-down room. Empress An Rong was serenely lying there with her eyes closed. Her poise was graceful and elegant, as if she were sleeping amidst a sea of flowers. At first glance, it looked like she was just sleeping, silent and unmoving. However, at a closer glance, it was clear to see that she was no longer breathing. Everyone knew that Empress An Rong, who had been impeccably noble and beautiful back in the days, had already died.
“Huala…huala…” A soft sound rang out, catching the Emperor and the Grand Empress off guard. When they turned around to look, they noticed that there was a piece of paper held down by a battered rock on the wooden table. The sound they heard had been the paper fluttering in the wind.
The Grand Empress hurriedly strode over to grab the piece of paper. After carefully reading it, she sorrowfully shook her head. Even the normally cool Grand Empress couldn’t control the tears that fell from her eyes and onto the paper. It was just too depressing, too touching.
The Grand Empress threw the paper at the Emperor and angrily shouted, “You unfilial son, just look at what you’ve done. This is all your fault!”
Looking at the Empress serenely lying on the wooden table, the Emperor’s tears had also begun to blur his vision. As he stared at the woman with the beauty of a peony on the bed, his past memories began to replay through his head, over and over. Humans were different from beasts; how could he be heartless in the face of such tragedy? Only after his loss did the Emperor finally realize who his greatest treasure, his most loved one, was!
He silently took the letter from the Grand Empress, and read it closely. The suicide note was filled with resentment and sentimentality, yearning and disappointment, sending a penetrating, sharp pain shooting through the Emperor’s heart. A woman so beautiful that had loved him so deeply had killed herself because he had been fickle and cold. How could he possibly endure the pain from knowing this!
“Ah….” After reading the letter in his hand, the Emperor finally began to wail in grief. His cries were desolate, like the ape that cried tears of blood, and the ancient tree that wailed.
(TL note: This is the literal translation. I had no clue what this meant, so I asked the almighty GGP for help. It apparently refers to two stories. One is about an ape who lost his son and mate by hunters and when he found them, he found their bodies were mutilated, so he cried blood. The other is about trees being so sad about humans cutting down other trees that they expressed their sorrow by physically wailing.)
The instant that he had completely lost Empress An Rong, the Emperor had finally realized that the woman he loved the most was still An Rong. His feelings toward her surpassed what he felt for his family, or even himself.
When An Rong was still alive, he hadn’t ever considered her good sides. However, now that she had left him, he suddenly discovered that his heart was unexpectedly feeling so much pain that he couldn’t even breathe or think. Scenes from the entire past 36 years played through his mind one after another like a movie. The accumulated emotions and experiences that he had gathered were as great as the sea. This was how they had gotten to know each other so well, and become such intimate lovers.
The Emperor had to admit that Imperial Concubine Hua also gave him boundless joy. She excited him in a different way, and often sent his soul drifting to the seventh heaven. However, that was just a comfort he could seek in **. The only one that could actually move his heart was Empress An Rong!
The Emperor would perhaps not be able to experience as many pleasures if he lost Imperial Concubine Hua, but losing Empress An Rong made him suddenly discover that he now felt completely empty. The incomparable feeling of emptiness and grief, as if he had lost half his soul, stormed through his head.
For the past three years, although the Emperor had spent every night in Imperial Concubine Hua’s room, he had always taken some time every day to go accompany Empress An Rong. Even if they didn’t speak, and just quietly sat there together, the Emperor would feel content and serene. Although there wasn’t as much passion or stimulation with An Rong, that warm feeling he felt with her was something that only she could give him.
The Emperor tightly clenched the letter in his fist, and shakingly fell to his knees in front of the bed. He knelt there next to An Rong, gazing at the serene, seemingly sleeping Empress An Rong. For the past few years, he had been completely absorbed with Imperial Concubine Hua, and had turned a cold shoulder to An Rong. However, from beginning to end, she had never once said any words of anger to him. Whenever he met with her, she was always as gentle and soft as before, never once rebuking him for his actions.
As he stared at her flawless face as beautiful as a peony, and her naturally well developed figure, the Emperor finally realized in that instant of loss that the one he loved the most, and the one he couldn’t lose, was An Rong.
The Emperor also suddenly discovered that whether comparing appearance or ambience, that Imperial Concubine Hua couldn’t possibly compare to Empress An Rong. Did that mean…for all those years, he had been possessed by a ghost, so obsessed that he had lost his rationality?
Comparatively speaking, Imperial Concubine Hua was only a 28 year old girl. Although she provided a fresh, stimulating experience, she didn’t understand love, and couldn’t possibly move the Emperor’s 50 some year old heart. The only person that could ever touch and soothe his heart was An Rong alone. No other person could do it.
Seeing the crying Emperor, the Grand Empress banged her cane and angrily shouted, “Do you feel regret now? But what use is that? What were you doing before? A woman that loved you so deeply repeatedly suffered from humiliation because of you, eventually forcing her to such a point. How could she possibly bear to continue living?”
In a daze, the Emperor stared at Empress An Rong and dumbly mumbled to himself, “That’s right…I’m the one who pressured her to death, I’m the one who hurt her!”
The Grand Empress continued to rant, “I don’t care how happy and carefree you live your life. The Empress never minded either. I once told her that as long as your heart still belonged to her, there was no need to be too upset about anything else. However, now your heart is clearly no longer with her. To a woman, a married woman, that is even more painful than death. Faced with your heartlessness, what could she do aside from die? Living like that would’ve been far more painful than dying!”
The Grand Empress seemed to get angrier and angrier the more she spoke. With a few more bangs of her cane, she continued, “A man should not abandon his wife that has passed through tribulations with him. As a man, and the Emperor, you can live as free and easy a life as you want. But being so cold as to cast your own pledged wife to the side is too much of a sin. How can the current you ever face the ancestors of our Holy Light Imperial Family in the future?”
Suo Jia couldn’t help but inwardly smile to himself when he saw how grieved the Emperor and the Great Empress were. In reality, all of this had been planned by him. Regardless of whether it was the Emperor’s sudden appearance, or the Grand Empress’s unexpected entrance, Suo Jia had entrusted them all to Duke Wen Sha to arrange. With Duke Wen Sha’s power and status, he naturally had friends within the country. Although there were some things he couldn’t do, such minor tasks were still doable. Thus…Suo Jia had set up this series of stratagems one after another.
At this point, all of Imperial Concubine Hua’s plots had failed and been exposed. However, this was only the beginning. What Suo Jia wanted to do wasn’t just to defeat Imperial Concubine Hua; if he couldn’t help the Empress regain the Emperor’s heart, it would be a failure.
People were always like this. When using something, they never knew to cherish it. But once lost, they would realize how precious it was. Empress An Rong’s death was also planned by Suo Jia. In reality, she could still be resurrected. Hehe…having putting so much effort, he deserved some type of reward, right?
Suo Jia cleared his throat and loudly said, “Can anyone tell me how Her Highness died?”
Everyone simultaneously turned to look at Suo Jia after he spoke. One of the servant girls softly said, “Her Highness died by swallowing a crystal!”