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No Longer Benevolent
Zhu Kongshan brought up going home to participate in the funeral, and the eighth prince had no reason to stop her. He just reminded her before she left: “Remember your status. Remember your future. You must not trip because of a measly little Zhu manor. The deceased is already dead. Just cry it out and return to the capital after the funeral. Don’t stay in Peng Zhou for too long.”
Zhu Kongshan had no desire to listen to these matters. She even felt a bit of hatred towards the eighth prince for not stepping in to help at that time. If the eighth prince had expressed himself earlier, the Zhu family could not possibly have let Liu shi die. Although she died by hanging, if it was not for the Zhu family locking her inside a storage room, how could Liu shi have had the chance to hang herself?
Returning to Peng Zhou, it was the maidservant from the Sheng Palace that knew martial arts who drove the carriage. Zhu Kongshan sat in the carriage with A-Huan and A-Ruo. She wore plain clothes; however, the two maidservants wore the same clothes that they usually wore. There was even a bit of pink on their sleeves. Zhu Kongshan coldly glanced at them but did not want to say anything about the two maidservants sent by Zhu Kongyue. But this was still her mother’s funeral, yet these two people had dressed so flashily in front of her. It was something that her heart could not get over, thus she said: “You sold yourselves as servants, yet you don’t even understand this bit of the rules. The masters of the manor are holding a funeral, yet you’re dressed like this. Who are you dressed for?”
The Sheng Palace’s maidservant was not inside the carriage. A-Huan and A-Ruo were not afraid of Zhu Kongshan, who was about to return to Peng ZHou because they knew that once they left the capital, this young miss of a concubine would need to obey the Zhu family’s orders. In the face of the young miss of the first wife, she was nothing. Moreover, her birth mother had made that sort of a commotion. Who could possibly treat her well?
A-Huan shrugged and laughed, asking Zhu Kongshan: “Third young miss has forgotten Da Shun’s rules, right? I have never heard of any family hosting a funeral for a dead concubine. To say something inauspicious, if something had happened to the head madam, we would definitely have been filial, but third young miss must not forget. Liu shi was just a concubine, yet you want servants to observe the funeral rites for a concubine?”
A-Huan’s words had silenced Zhu Kongshan. That was right! Liu shi was just a concubine, and she had caused such a scandal before dying. She also felt a bit suspicious about how exactly Liu shi had died? She was Liu shi’s daughter. She understood that mother too well. Suicide by hanging? What sort of joke was that? Was Liu shi the type to have the courage to hang herself? But if that was not the case, what was the real cause of death? Why did the Liu family not pursue it?
Zhu Kongshan had many questions in mind. On the road from the capital to Peng Zhou, she pondered precisely what had happened with this situation. She had some guesses of her own, but she did not dare be certain. It was only after the carriage entered Peng Zhou and stopped in front of the Zhu manor’s entrance that she saw her eldest uncle from the Liu family happily chatting with a servant. With that, her speculation grew even further.
Zhu Kongshan returned to the manor; however, nobody in the Zhu family received her warmly. Everyone looked at her with gazes full of disdain. There were even some servants who quietly discussed: “Even if she has a prince and members of the imperial harem for support, what of it? With this sort of mother, how could a prince take in this sort of official princess.”
It was as though Zhu Kongshan had been struck by lightning and suddenly realized a massive problem. What these servants were saying was correct!
The most important thing for the imperial family was their image. It was fine if she was a daughter of a concubine, as a daughter of a concubine could become the daughter of the first wife. Her father’s rank was fine, as he could be promoted. It could be said that she and the eighth prince got along very well. The eighth prince was not the type to only look at a person’s status. With the relationship in consideration, it was even better for her reputation.
But what now? Not only was she just a daughter of a concubine, but her birth mother had an affair with the manor’s housekeeper and was caught by her father. How could the eighth prince want her with a background like that!
The ripples that had formed in her heart over the previous few days instantly froze. Zhu Kongshan stood in the middle of the yard while thinking about the sequence of events. The more she thought about it, the more shocked she felt and the more she felt that she had been deceived by the eighth prince. What future empress? Even after that scandal with Liu shi had come out, that person continued to tell her that she would be the future empress. At that time, she had been feeling in disarray and did not think things through carefully. Thinking back on it now, had that cousin of hers ever treated her with any sincerity?
Zhu Kongshan suddenly turned around and stared fixedly at the servant from the Sheng Palace, coldly asking: “Speak, how exactly did my mother die?”
That servant shook her head and replied: “This servant was with young miss and just returned to Peng Zhou. How could this servant possibly know how she died?”
“Hmph!” Zhu Kongshan coldly snorted, “You wouldn’t know because you weren’t in Peng Zhou? I figure the Sheng Palace knows even more!” After saying this, she turned back around and headed for the mourning hall in the ZHu manor.
Although she was a concubine, with pressure from the Liu family, the Zhu manor had a small mourning hall constructed. It was just that there was nobody aside from family members who came to pay respects.
When she arrived, there were members of the Zhu family inside the mourning hall. There were also members of the Liu family. When they saw her arrive, they opened up a path. Zhu Kongshan went forward to kowtow and light some incense. She then walked over to the casket and felt it with a complex set of emotions on display.
In regards to this mother, she could not explain what she felt. Love, well there was definitely love. After all, they were mother and daughter. But to speak of hatred, there was definitely some hatred. After all, it was Liu shi’s wildly indecent acts that had impacted her life. Zhu Kongshan now knew what sort of fate was awaiting her. She would be completely abandoned by the eighth prince, and it would be done after the eighth prince had finished using her. Or could it be that cousin really could ignore these things and take her as his official princess?
As she thought about it, even she began to laugh. Turning back around, she saw her eldest uncle from the Liu family walk in and noticed that there was a clear look of irritation on his face. She took the initiative and stepped forward, saluting and saying: “Eldest uncle.”
He merely nodded but did not say anything. He just said to Zhu Xinjie: “Kongshan has also returned. Let’s have her buried tomorrow.”
Zhu Xinjie nodded with a heavy expression. From beginning to present, he never said a single thing to Zhu Kongshan. She felt unreconciled and weakly asked: “How exactly did concubine mother Liu die?”
Zhu Xinjie had a repulsed look, waving his hand as if to swat away a fly: “Did you not hear? Liu shi had a private affair with the manor’s housekeeper, and she killed herself for this crime.”
Zhu Kongshan did not like hearing this sort of thing and replied: “But daughter also heard that concubine mother Liu cut open her finger and wrote the word innocent before hanging herself. Why is it that the family doesn’t investigate it?”
“What is there to investigate?” Zhu Xinjie really wanted to slap this daughter to death, “I personally saw it. What is there to investigate!”
“I’m not talking about investigating that.” Zhu Kongshan’s gaze turned towards the members of the Liu family while she spoke: “My meaning is why wasn’t there any investigation. She clearly wasn’t innocent, so why did she write the word innocent? Concubine mother Liu is most afraid of pain and pays the most attention to her appearance. How could she possibly hang herself? Of all the people who could do such a thing, she is not one of them.”
Hearing her say this, Zhu Xinjie felt that this matter was indeed a bit strange. Based on Liu shi’s personality, it was not too possible that she would commit suicide, but he did not want to investigate it any further. The more he thought about it the more disgusted he felt. Regardless of how Liu shi had died, she was now dead. He felt that it was peaceful, and he felt that the manor was clean. As for the real reason for her death, it was not his problem. It was just a lowly concubine. If she died, she died.
Seeing that Zhu Xinjie did not speak for a long time, Zhu Kongshan was no longer perplexed. She just asked the members of the Liu family: “Uncles, will you not support concubine mother?”
Liu Wannian glanced at her and heavily said: “And I thought that a trip to the capital would allow you to make some progress. Who knew that you’re still like this. Your concubine mother is the Zhu family’s concubine. Everything will be decided by the Zhu family. How could my Liu family possibly intervene?”
These words made the Liu family’s stance clear. Zhu Kongshan nodded and did not continue to question it; however, she had roughly figured out the entirety of the situation.
Liu shi’s death probably could not be unrelated to the Liu family and the eighth prince, right?
Ever since she returned to the manor, A-Huan and A-Ruo returned to Zhu Kongyue’s side. Zhu Kongshan only had the servant from the Sheng Palace, but that servant had been kept outside and could not take care of her. At her side were the servants who had taken care of her in the Zhu manor previously.
That night, the head madam went to Zhu Kongshan’s room and told her: “Your father and I have already decided on a marriage for you. He’s a scholar from Peng Zhou who passed the county-level imperial exam. You will get married as his wife. Thinking about it like this, you have married up. Just prepare yourself. You will get married in half a month. The Zhu family’s dowry for you will not be lacking.”
Zhu Kongshan did not say anything. She merely nodded and had a very cooperative appearance. This made the head madam very satisfied. When she left the room, she did not notice her wolf-like expression.
At this time, the servant taking care of her handed her a letter, telling her: “This morning before young miss entered the city, this servant went out to buy supplies, and a child handed me this. They said that someone had a letter for the Zhu family’s third young miss and to have young miss read it after returning to the manor.”
Zhu Kongshan was puzzled but quickly received the letter. To send a letter using this sort of method meant that the contents of the letter were very secretive. Seeing that seal had not been touched, she dismissed her personal maidservants before opening the letter.
The contents of the letter were very simple. The Liu family’s eldest master went to the capital and returned to Peng Zhou after discussing some business with the eighth prince. He then sent a hidden guard to kill Liu shi while maintaining the appearance of suicide. Third young miss Zhu, please investigate it carefully.
It was exactly as she had suspected!
Zhu Kongshan tightly held that letter in her hand. She had already had no time to think about what sort of person had sent the letter. She just thought about how she had helped the eighth prince over the months and how she had put in so much effort. In the end, the eighth prince worked with her eldest uncle to kill her mother. What sort of deal was this?
Reality was often hard to accept; however, Zhu Kongshan understood that even if she did not want to accept it, she had to. Things had already become like this. The latter half of her life had been ruined with this event. She could no longer return to the past. Even her father and the head madam had already chosen a marriage for her. She would be getting married in half a month. With it being so rushed, it was clear that they did not want to let her return to the capital. As for the Liu family’s attitude, it was clear that they did not want to touch the matters of mother and daughter.
The Zhu family rushed to distance themselves, and the Liu family did the same. Just a few days earlier, she had been very impressive. Now that she returned to Peng Zhou, it was as though she had entered a man-made prison where everyone was tired of her.
Zhu Kongshan felt that she could not continue to stay in this family. Regardless of whether it was the Zhu family or the Liu family, both were now dangerous to her. This life could be lost at any given moment. Since that was the case, she did not plan to continue being benevolent. The glory that she had granted certain person, she would now reclaim them all one by one!
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