TIGR Chapter 31
The Imperial Guard’s Revenge
Chapter 31 Condition
Lu Heng knew what she wanted to do when she rushed over, but he didn’t expect this Miss Zhao to be so brazen.
Did she think that as long as she lowered her posture, he would accept it?
She wished too much.
Lu Heng said slowly: “Miss Zhao, you are the daughter of a minister and a daughter of wealth. How can you engage in this matter of serving others? You flatter me Miss Zhao, please get up.”
The third Miss Zhao’s heart fell heavily. He refused. Could it be that her father’s case was so serious that even Lu Heng dare not touch it? Or was he playing hard to get and deliberately suppressing her?
Third Miss Zhao hardened her heart and fought again with everything she had. She grabbed the corner of Lu Heng’s clothes, raised her head, and looked at him pleadingly: “I know that I am the daughter of a criminal and not worthy of Master Lu. This girl is self-aware and will never ask for any status, nor will she cause trouble for Madam Lu in the future. If there is no shortage of servants around Master Lu, then I am willing to be a slave for a servant, even to be a servant who lights the fire for cooking beside the Master.”
Lu Heng smiled and took a step back unhurriedly. The third Miss Zhao felt the delicate brocade fabric slipping from her hand, and her heart twitched fiercely. His speed was not fast, but the third Miss Zhao no longer had the courage to reach out and grab the cloth.
In just a short time, many people had noticed them. A weak and beautiful lady in distress and an Imperial Guard who pulled her father down into the abyss with one tug had always been hot topics of discussion. In the past, during house raids, there were also many examples of young ladies and concubines directly taken away by Imperial Guards. In accordance with Lu Heng’s identity, he absolutely didn’t need shaky relationships. If he only revealed a few of his opinions, then eunuchs who came to register the criminals directly helped him erase people off the roster.
Officials managed matters at the top, and if there was one more person on the list of female relatives and one less person to handle, no one would pursue it at all. Most of the others felt that Lu Heng was about to accept, so they deliberately avoided this area when walking. Once Lu Heng nodded, this person would be part of Master Lu’s family. The difference between the daughter of a criminal minister and a woman of Master Lu was like a world apart.
However, they misjudged Lu Heng. The emperor personally handed over the task of clearing Zhao Huai to him, and he was about to succeed. If he accepted Zhao Huai’s daughter at this juncture, the emperor would indeed not blame him for such a trivial matter, but his evaluation of him was bound to decline. How important was the emperor’s trust, and where did these women have the confidence to compare with his career?
Not to mention that third Miss Zhao was just a little family girl in terms of looks and even if she grew into a beautiful woman, he didn’t want to jeopardize his career.
Naturally, this kind of remark was too cold-blooded, so Lu Heng bowed his head and smiled at third Miss Zhao, and said: “Miss Zhao is full of poetry and books, how can she be a fire-lighting girl? Thank you Miss Zhao for your love, but my sister at home is recovering from illness and needs to rest, so it is inconvenient to add a servant. I can only disappoint Miss Zhao’s wishes.”
After Lu Heng finished speaking, he turned around and left, without the slightest reluctance in his steps. When the Imperial Guard who was on duty behind him saw that the commander had left the delicate and charming tear-stained face of Miss Zhao, he was shocked for a moment.
Sure enough, the rumors were right. The commander really didn’t like women.
Lu Heng ignored the undercurrents surging in Zhao’s mansion. His errand had been completed. How these people were dealt with later and what fate they would experience had nothing to do with him. As for those boring suspicions, Lu Heng didn’t bother to take care of any of them.
Only the beast couldn’t control his own desires. He had more important things to do, and love was only an afterthought for him. No matter how beautiful the beauty, was it better than overflowing power in a position of power?
Lu Heng sneered softly in his heart. Because of the third Miss Zhao, he couldn’t help but think of another woman. He couldn’t help wondering if the person today was replaced by Wang Yanqing, what would she do?
If it was Wang Yanqing’s pitiful face begging him, perhaps Lu Heng would have hesitated a little longer. However, in the end, he would not be soft-hearted, and Wang Yanqing would not use her body as a price to beg a man.
She would find a way to change it and at the least reduce Zhao Huai’s crime. Zhao Huai was just a trial, a small man in the Ministry of Rites. Where was the worth in fighting this for the emperor and the Imperial Guards? If she was smart enough, she would know to climb up and bite.
The evidence provided by Zhao Huai’s wife and daughter was convincing enough. The student’s families would never frame the teacher, right? If she could really come up with something, the emperor might open up and spare Zhao Huai’s life. If you couldn’t be an official in the future, at least you could go back to your hometown to spend your old age in peace.
It was a pity that Wang Yanqing was not born into the Zhao family and that the Zhao family would not have such good fortune.
Lu Heng sighed leisurely and took a step out of the threshold of the Zhao residence. From this moment, Zhao Huai, the Minister of Rites, had become history in the capital.
Lu Heng went to South Fusi to change his court clothes and rode to the south gate to wait for the court. Morning courts were a physical exercise. Often, they had to wait outside the palace gate at Yinshi, stand in the cold wind for an hour, and wait until the morning drums started beating for hundreds of civil and military officials lining up to enter the dynasty and go to Tianmen. Young people couldn’t take it, let alone the old and frail ministers, so the emperor built a special courtroom at the end gate to show his sympathy for his close ministers.
|| Yinshi (寅时) 3-5 am.
The Imperial Guards had their own private room, and Lu Heng went directly to the right towards the old gate after dismounting from his horse. The other Imperial Guards in the private room were already there, and when they saw Lu Heng, they stood up and greeted him one after another: “Master Lu.”
With such a loud commotion last night, everyone in the city knew that Lu Heng had handled another major case. They just didn’t know which families were planted in Lu Heng’s hands this time.
In the private room, people were seated according to their ranking. Those with high official positions had comfortable and spacious seats, while others were seated in a line at the back, and some people couldn’t line up and could only stand. Standing was not bad, they had eaves to shelter them from the wind and rain. Those officials outside who were low-ranking and unable to speak in court could only stand in the cold wind and wait. It was the end of the year now, and not easy to stand in the cold early morning wind for an hour.
Lu Heng sat down to drink tea, and when a cup of tea bottomed out, the door of the room was pushed in from the outside. Chen Yin was here. Lu Heng put down the teacup and stood up to greet Chen Yin: “Commander Chen Du.”
When Chen Yin saw Lu Heng, the coldness on his face became heavier. He glanced at Lu Heng’s clothes lightly, and said: “I heard that Zhao Huai confessed yesterday?”
Lu Heng lowered his eyes and smiled: “Commander Chen Du is very well informed. The Holy Heaven is mighty, and Zhao Huai’s confession was just a matter of course.”
Chen Yin fixed a glance at Lu Heng, while Lu Heng maintained his smile and remained motionless. Chen Yin was fed a soft nail by Lu Heng. Although he was angry, he couldn’t ask any more questions.
The emperor didn’t even know, yet Chen Yin wanted to rush the matter. Wouldn’t that be like suspecting the length of his own life?
Chen Yin sat down with a cold face, and Lu Heng took it easy, sitting down next to Chen Yin and continuing to drink his tea. Time ticked by and soon it was time to go up to the court, and the officials in the private room walked to the south gate one after another. Chen Yin didn’t want to look at Lu Heng’s face again. He didn’t even bother to say a word, he got up suddenly, pushed the door hard, and left.
After Chen Yin left, Lu Heng finally put down the cup of tea he had been drinking for an hour and got up slowly. After he went out, he happened to bump into people from Hanlin’s private room. Several scholars were waiting, and when they saw him coming out, they all stopped.
Lu Heng took the initiative to greet the several elders: “Head Auxiliary Yang. Second Assistant Zhang. Elders.”
When Yang Yingning saw Lu Heng, the smile on his face faded, but he still said calmly: “Commander Lu. Why didn’t I see you in the previous court?”
Lu Heng was well prepared and said calmly: “I asked the emperor for leave, and went to Baoding to investigate a case. I just came back two days ago. My bad if it has inconvenienced Head Auxiliary Yang thinking about it.”
Of course, Yang Yingning didn’t miss Lu Heng. He wished that Lu Heng wouldn’t come back. How could he miss him? What Yang Yingning was worried about was what tricks Lu Heng had played in the Baoding Mansion. Otherwise, Zhao Huai would have already confessed, so why did he suddenly turn his back?
Yang Yingning carefully looked at the young man in front of him who was old enough to be his grandson. He underestimated Lu Heng. He thought that arranging the capital would be foolproof. He didn’t expect that Lu Heng would actually go to Baoding and break the game. Although Yang Yingning still didn’t know what Lu Heng had arranged under the seemingly normal investigation of Baoding Mansion.
Lu Heng stretched out his hand to Yang Yingning, looking like a junior who respected the old and loved the young, someone who was humble and respectful, and said: “Head Auxiliary, it is time to go to court, please.”
Yang Yingning was old enough to be Lu Heng’s elder in both age and seniority, he was also impolite. He threw down his sleeves and passed in front of Lu Heng with his hands in his sleeves. Zhang Jinggong followed behind. When Lu Heng saw Zhang Jinggong, his smile deepened, and he still spoke gently and politely: “Second Assistant Zhang. Master Second Assistant, please go first.”
Zhang Jinggong stared at Lu Heng meaningfully, then folded his sleeves and left. After Lu Heng sent the elders away one by one, he slowly retracted his hand and walked towards the south gate.
Officials were already standing on both sides of the imperial road, and the official uniforms of dark purple, vermilion, and indigo were mixed together, like a huge overturned dye tray. As Lu Heng walked through step by step, the officials who were whispering on both sides stopped, lowered their hands to avoid him, and silently separated a path.
Government officials were on the left, military officials were on the right, and the nobles ranked slightly ahead of military officials. After Lu Heng stood in his place, he raised his eyes a little and noticed that not far away, Fu Tingzhou was staring at him gloomily, looking so eager to tear Lu Heng’s body into ten thousand pieces. Lu Heng thought of Qing Qing, who was still sleeping in his house at the moment, and purposefully met Fu Tingzhou’s gaze, raising his eyebrows and smiling at him.
Fu Tingzhou saw Lu Heng bring out his provocative smile in front of everyone and his fists clenched. If he hadn’t been in court at the moment, he would have wanted to punch him in the face.
However, the angrier Fu Tingzhou got, the happier Lu Heng was. He hadn’t slept all night, but he didn’t show any signs of fatigue. Instead, he was in high spirits, and the corners of his eyes and brows could not be suppressed.
Drums sounded from the Five Phoenix Tower, and the officials entered through the small side door in order. Everyone stopped south of the Jinshui Bridge and no one dared to move now. Even Fu Tingzhou was no longer staring at Lu Heng. Everyone held their breaths, kept their demeanor, and waited for the sage.
The sound of a whip came from the front, and the government and military officials crossed the bridge respectively, in groups on the right and left. They waited for a while, as the bells and drums played music, and the emperor arrived at Tianmen and took his seat. After the whip was fired again, the long chant of the Honglu Temple sounded: “Enter.”
Lu Heng followed the crowd into the imperial road and bowed to the bright yellow figure hidden above the heavy umbrellas and fans: “Long live. Long live, my emperor.”
After the ceremony was over, the morning court really started. The Honglu Temple reported to the officials who thanked them as usual, but the emperor was too lazy to meet them one by one, so he sent the officials to greet him outside the south gate on their own. Immediately, the border pass was reported. Now that it was the end of the year, it was necessary to beware of border troubles. The Minister of General Affairs read the border pass and after the emperor became alert as usual, he reached the most important part of the morning court meeting.
The memorial for the emperor. This is the real highlight of this court.
Today’s memorial to the emperor was extremely depressing. The Ministry of Appointments were playing the court congratulations and although the ministers were listening, their eyes kept wandering in the direction of Lu Heng. When the officials of the Ministry of Appointments finished the performance, Lu Heng came out and said: “This minister has something to announce.”
No one turned their head to look left or right, but all the attention was on Lu Heng. In the seat of honor, there came a long chant from the palace eunuch affirming his request: “Pass.”
Lu Heng stepped forward, paid his respect, and said: “Zhao Huai, the Minister of Rites, confessed that he once accepted bribes from Zhang Yong and Xiao Jing for his own personal gain. I found 5,000 taels of gold, 10,000 taels of silver notes, and a total of 2,500 fields of land deeds and estates in Zhao Huai’s house last night.”
After Lu Heng finished speaking, the wind seemed to be quiet. Immediately, the emperor’s voice came from above: “Is this matter true?”
Lu Heng presented the document in his sleeve and said: “This is a compiled list of Zhao Huai’s corruption, please take a look at it.”
A eunuch ran down from the royal platform, took the memorial from Lu Heng, and sent it with both hands. The emperor took it, looked at it for a while, and when he closed it, his face was full of anger: “As a third-rank officer, Zhao Huai dares to embezzle and bend the law, collude with eunuchs, and occupy farmland. This is completely disregarding the rules of his ancestors.”
Emperor Hongwu hated officials the most in his life. He hated landlords, corrupt officials, and eunuchs, and he clearly ordered eunuchs not to participate in politics. The things found in Zhao Huai’s house were certainly not small for the officials in the court, and they were not too many to be surprising, but the emperor convicted Zhao Huai of the crime as soon as he opened his mouth, which was exactly the one Emperor Hongwu considered taboo.
The officials in the audience were shocked. They all understood that because the emperor set the tone so high, it was going to be a big deal. After a brief silence, there was a cough from the group of government officials. Zhang Jinggong stepped out, cupped his hands, and said: “Your Majesty, Zhao Huai is the servant of the Ministry of Rites. He is neither in charge nor in power, how could he dare collude with the eunuchs? This minister suspects that what Zhao Huai did was instructed by someone.”
Those words caused a thousand waves. After Zhang Jinggong started, the other government officials also open fired one after another, and the smell of gunpowder smoke became strong immediately. But these had nothing to do with Lu Heng. He slowly walked back to his position with a solemn look, a respectful face, and a refreshed heart.
He understood his role very well. He was a knife, responsible for solving problems for the emperor, and throwing out the charges when the emperor needed them. As for how the charges were determined and who was convicted, it was up to Zhang Jinggong.
Lu Heng casually listened to the scolding in the second half. This group of government officials could really scold. Standing in the cold wind, their spit was splattering for half an hour, and they didn’t even feel thirsty. Finally, the emperor’s patience reached its limit. He lowered his face, and the official who was scolding him so much that he got carried away, quickly closed his mouth and returned to the queue. A servant stepped forward and sang: “Is there any other matter you wish to present to the emperor, if not, the meeting will be adjourned.”
No one answered, and the morning court finally came to an end. The officials of the Honglu Temple sang “the service is over”, and the crisp sound of the whip came, and the emperor got up and drove back to the palace. After the sage drove away, hundreds of government and military officials quietly breathed a sigh of relief and walked out one after another.
The huge queue spread out and gradually became a small group of twos and threes. Lu Heng turned around and took only two steps before he was stopped by a voice behind him: “Master Lu.”
Lu Heng turned his head and saw Fu Tingzhou walking toward him with a steady and overcast face. The corner of Lu Heng’s mouth twitched into a faint smile and asked: “Is there any matter, Marquis of Zhenyuan?”
Fu Tingzhou stopped in front of Lu Heng, didn’t even bother to show his face, and asked directly, “Master Lu has nothing to say to me?”
Lu Heng asked with a smile: “What does the Marquis of Zhenyuan want to hear?”
Still pretending to be stupid. Fu Tingzhou took a deep breath and asked as calmly as possible: “At the beginning of the month, my sister was in the western suburbs. It has been sixteen days since she disappeared, her whereabouts are unknown, and there is still no news. Master Lu has hands and eyes everywhere. Do you know if Master Lu has news about my sister?”
He finally made up his mind. Lu Heng sneered in his heart but met Fu Tingzhou’s gaze innocently and fearlessly: “Old Marquis Fu has one son from his first wife and three children from concubines and four granddaughters. Some time ago, the Fu family Miss went out to handle things, and it seemed that they were all there. I really don’t know which sister the Zhenyuan Marquis is referring to.”
Fu Tingzhou couldn’t bear it any longer, and said exasperatedly: “Lu Heng!”
Still in the palace now, surrounded by officials from the scattered court, Fu Tingzhou sternly called Lu Heng’s name, which immediately attracted a lot of attention. Lu Heng’s smile didn’t change, and he looked at Fu Tingzhou calmly with a lot of scrutiny: “Marquis of Zhenyuan, this is the palace. I advise you to pay attention.”
Fu Tingzhou took a deep breath and warned himself that he couldn’t mess around and that Qing Qing was still waiting for him to save her. Fu Tingzhou reluctantly calmed down and said: “Master Lu doesn’t have to pretend to be confused. You and I know what happened that day. Master Lu has been holding onto his troops for so long, haven’t you just been waiting for this day? It’s hard to be patient, just tell me what conditions Master Lu has.”
In reality, these words should not have been said in public, and this was the palace. The eyes of the emperor were everywhere, and the slightest carelessness would cause trouble. But Fu Tingzhou didn’t care, he wanted to show off with Lu Heng in such a place. Lu Heng had just finished a major case and was at the cusp of the storm. The movements of Fu Tingzhou and Lu Heng would surely disturb others. Even if everyone didn’t know the conversation between the two of them, they would inevitably inquire when they went back. Lu Heng couldn’t pretend to lay low any longer. Fu Tingzhou wanted to force Lu Heng to surrender in a manner where he would hurt the enemy, gain one thousand, and lose eight hundred.
It had been sixteen days, and Fu Tingzhou was restless. He couldn’t bear it, even for a quarter of an hour. He went against the admonition of the Marquis of Wuding and publicly challenged Lu Heng. He was no longer able to calculate the gains and losses, as long as Qing Qing could come back, the conditions would be left open to Lu Heng.
Fu Tingzhou despised Lu Heng but hated himself even more at the beginning of the month. If he could go back in time, he would definitely beat himself up for ignoring Qing Qing’s wishes and forcing Qing Qing to go out and offer incense. Why did he sit and watch the people in the Marquis Mansion neglect Qing Qing, why did he agree with his mother’s words, and why did he forget Qing Qing’s birthday? If he didn’t go out of the city for incense that day but accompanied Qing Qing on her birthday, nothing would have happened now, and Qing Qing would still stay with him to prepare for the New Year.
The overlapping military powers, the ever-expanding ceremony, the increasingly fierce struggle between the first and second assistant… The turmoil became more and more dangerous. In order to maintain the balance of the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion, Fu Tingzhou was often exhausted. But after returning to the mansion and looking around, there was no one in the huge Marquis Mansion who could listen to him. If Qing Qing was still there…
However, she was gone. All this was thanks to Lu Heng.
Fu Tingzhou had been terrified these days. Every day he reminded himself to be careful about Lu Heng, but until nightfall, Lu Heng did not move. Fu Tingzhou felt a huge disappointment in his heart, and he realized that he was expecting Lu Heng to threaten him.
Now Fu Tingzhou only wanted Qing Qing to come back alive. Even if Lu Heng opened his wide lion mouth, he would admit it.
Fu Tingzhou was living in torment every day, while Lu Heng was living in a happy spring breeze with rising clouds. The comparison between the two sides were really annoying.
Fu Tingzhou thought that Lu Heng, being such a greedy person, would take a stand after hearing that he had retreated. This was not a place to talk, but as long as Lu Heng showed a little bit of intention, they could talk in private. But Fu Tingzhou saw that Lu Heng’s smile faded, and a sharp edge quickly flashed across his eyes.
Fu Tingzhou was surprised and he thought he was wrong. Lu Heng always carried a fake smile wherever he was. Fu Tingzhou was disgusted, but did he actually see displeasure on Lu Heng’s face just now?
Fu Tingzhou was shocked, was this still Lu Heng? However, Lu Heng’s expression fluctuated only for a moment. He quickly returned to normal and said with a warm smile: “The Zhenyuan Marquis is impatiently considering his younger sister, I am very moved. However, among the four young ladies of the Fu family, I really don’t know what the Marquis of Zhenyuan is talking about.”
Fu Tingzhou looked at this actor coldly. All this time, he was still pretending. Fu Tingzhou snorted softly and said: “It’s my adopted sister.”
“Oh, the Zhenyuan Marquis Mansion even has an adopted daughter.” Lu Heng showed an expression of sudden realization and said, “Don’t worry, Marquis of Zhenyuan, I will have my subordinates pay attention. If there is any news about Miss Fu, I will send someone to notify the Marquis of Zhenyuan as soon as possible.”
Lu Heng thought to himself, he was talking about Miss Fu, but he didn’t say it was Wang Yanqing. He was really an honest, kind, and good man who didn’t even tell lies.
This development was very different from Fu Tingzhou’s idea. He wanted to speak more, but a cough that came from next to him. Fu Tingzhou and Lu Heng turned their heads and saw a red-clothed eunuch standing not far away. Timidly breaking this conversation, he said: “Master Lu, the Holy One has called.”
|| Author’s Note:
Third Miss Zhao: Is the emperor or the beauty more important?
Lu Heng: Emperor.