The duke’s manor had become quite lively with this development.
King Eastern Lu had arrived in person with an entourage accompanying him. Although there weren't that many, only seven or eight people, they included other dukes as well as royal officials. The most surprising fact was that the king had brought his sickly daughter with him, Eastern Zhiruo.
One had to give it to them, these dukes and officials were top of the line actors. From the king to the dukes, each one bore an expression more tragic than the last.
As if the Jiang Chen lying in the coffin was a child of their family.
Jiang Feng was expressionless as he woodenly returned the visitors’ greetings. If playacting was what they wanted, then playacting they would receive.
However, when Eastern Zhiruo stepped up to light her incense sticks, the sickly girl said in a quiet voice, “Big brother Jiang Chen, I’m sorry, you were drawn into this situation because Zhiruo is so useless. But don’t worry, Zhiruo will personally apologize to you if there is another world after death. When we are there you are free to hit me, yell at me, or do whatever. Father held the Rites to pray for me, so your death is Zhiruo’s fault. I hope the heavens can understand and blame Zhiruo alone; not my royal father, nor my kingdom’s citizens…”
Although the little girl spoke in halting bursts, even while she lacked the proper amount of breath to do so, she was sincere and quite serious. These words caused the nobles who were acting up a storm to feel slightly ashamed at their actions.
Even fatty Xuan found it hard to hate her, and he hated the Eastern royals with a passion.
“I say Princess Zhiruo, the guy’s dead already, there’s no point in saying all this. If you really feel guilty, then marry my brother Chen when you’re down there. He was not qualified to be your consort when alive, but dead...! Heh! Oh yes, my brother Chen loves a nice butt. In terms of body, he…”
No one could shut fatty Xuan’s mouth once he’d started speaking. His words completely incensed Eastern Lu. You damn fatty, are you cursing my daughter to die as soon as possible?
Meanwhile, the dukes were striving mightily to control their facial expressions. They were desperately afraid of being amused by the buffoon that was fatty Xuan, and of revealing a smile at inappropriate timing.
Jiang Chen had been lying quite comfortably in the coffin when he heard fatty Xuan start to lose control of the situation. How could one continue to lie down when such a thing was happening? He sprang into a sitting position and scowled, “Damn fatty, can’t you even let me die in peace?”
With the exception of his father, Jiang Chen’s action froze everyone solid for a good couple of seconds.
Fatty Xuan was the closest to him and was absolutely overjoyed, “Brother Jiang, are you pretending to be a corpse or playing dead?”
“Pretending my ass. Playing dead is extremely tiring, why don’t you try it?”
Eastern Lu’s face stilled when he saw Jiang Chen suddenly sit up. A follower beside him immediately proclaimed, “Jiang Chen, how dare you pretend to be dead! You have misled your king and committed treason! You and your family clan should be executed!”
A king never failed to be short of these sycophants.
Jiang Chen was too lazy to pay him any attention, and slowly pulled himself out of the coffin. He asked Eastern Lu with a calm gaze, “Your Majesty, Jiang Chen was lucky and did not die. I merely wish to ask, do you intend to cane me to death once again, or will you forgive your subject’s unintentional crimes?”
Eastern Lu was the king of a nation but his strong heart skipped a beat when Jiang Chen swept his gaze over him. This youth that had climbed out of a coffin had a mysterious, indefinable quality about him that made even Eastern Lu a bit wary.
“Hmph! I am the king of a nation! Why on earth would I dignify your impudent question with a response? You will be spared since you had the great luck to survive.”
Eastern Lu actually really wanted to choke Jiang Chen to death, but reason told him that he needed to conduct himself in a manner befitting a king.
If he made a move against Jiang Chen now, his underlings would think he was not acting as a king should, not to mention that the duke of Jiang Han would rebel without a doubt
“Your Majesty, this devious rat was playing dead to avoid being executed. This treacherous intention is worthy of a death sentence! This duke petitions your majesty to judge harshly and exact justice.”
It was that sycophant again.
However, Jiang Han’s duke, Jiang Feng, wasn’t playing along this time. He leapt up and bawled, “What is the meaning of this, duke of Tianshiu? His Majesty has said he won’t be pursuing the matter further, just what are you trying to accomplish here with your jumping up and down?”
It wasn’t exactly a harmonious picture between the 108 dukes of the Eastern Kingdom. This duke of Tianshui and Jiang Feng, the duke of Jiang Han, were notorious rivals.
The duke of Tianshui laughed coldly, “Jiang Feng, don’t you find it odd that your son has arisen from the dead? I suspect you were also involved in misleading his majesty. I petition His Majesty to thoroughly investigate the Jiang father and son. If I speak the truth, then the entire Jiang family clan should be executed.”
Jiang Chen gave a quiet chuckle as he saw his father was about to erupt into full-blown anger, and swept his eyes in an interested gaze between Eastern Lu and Eastern Zhiruo.
He then casually spoke, “Your Majesty, it would be simple to execute the entire Jiang family clan, but it wouldn’t be as easy to save her Highness’ life, now would it?
Eastern Lu’s expression froze, “What do you mean by that Jiang Chen?”
“Nothing much, just that when I was being beaten to death in the temple just now, I seemed to hear a divine voice whispering next to my ear. It conveyed a great deal of words that seemed to have something to do with the princess’ illness. I found the will to live again when I thought of the princess’ illness, so I clawed my way back to life. If Your Majesty thinks I should die, then please give the order to cane me to death again!”
Jiang Chen was a smart fellow; he knew what to say in order to whet someone’s appetite. What he just said had precisely struck Eastern Lu’s weak spot.
As the ruler of a kingdom, Eastern Lu was tyrannical and paranoid. But as a father, Eastern Zhiruo was the apple of his eye.
He was tempted upon hearing that a divine being had taken an interest in his daughter’s illness. What were the Rites for? Who else if not his daughter?
An illness that no elixir or medicine could cure was in the hands of the gods.
“Jiang Chen, do you mean what you say?” Although Eastern Lu was a king, he still felt a bit of apprehension in that moment. After all, he had ordered this fellow to be caned to death.
“How would a subject dare lie to Your Majesty?”
“Alright! Jiang Chen, any request you make will be granted. All the riches, splendor and power in the Eastern Kingdom shall be yours if you can cure Zhiruo’s sickness.”
Now it was Jiang Feng’s turn to be nervous. He was afraid that his son had gotten it in his mind to play games with the king since he had been beaten. If this was the case, they would be in a lot of trouble later on.
“Chen’er, your knowledge of medicine is not strong. Many of the esteemed doctors in the royal hospital have been stumped by the princess’ illness, yet you speak of it lightly?
“Be at peace father. Although your son does not profess deep knowledge of medicine, I believe there should be no room for error given that I have received divine guidance.”
Eastern Lu spoke hurriedly, “Yes, yes. Jiang Chen feel free to speak your mind. You will be pardoned even if you are wrong, but will be rewarded with endless honors if you can help.”
Honors? That wasn’t important to Jiang Chen. It wasn’t as if he would really play this out to the end. Haggling over titles, trumpeting one’s abilities, or making various demands – that was the path to death.
The Jiang Chen of today understood the idea of the situation being more important than the person. He knew that being as humble as possible now would result in the greatest amount of protection, while wrangling over honors would one, earn the Eastern royal family’s enmity and secondly, jealousy from the other dukes.
Jiang Chen spoke as he thought of this, “Your humble subject is a criminal and dare not ask for any honors. Your subject will be able to carry out his duties without fear of others only if Your Majesty pardons my crimes.”
Dukes friendly with Jiang Feng snickered inwardly when they heard Jiang Chen’s words. This kid was quite a talker; he handled things even more smoothly than his old man.
Pardon Jiang Chen of his crimes, this was something Eastern Lu could easily accomplish with a single word.
“Alright, as We stand before our nobles today, We do hereby pardon you of all your crimes. From this moment on, you are still the heir of Jiang Han dukedom, with all your titles and accomplishments unchanged. If anyone brings up the past again, they will have the Eastern royal family to contend with.”
Eastern Lu’s words were quite magnanimous; he had not only pardoned all of Jiang Chen’s crimes, but had forbidden anyone from bringing them up again. This was obviously the mark of a generous heart, as the Jiang family could now avoid worrying about these crimes resurfacing in the future.
Jiang Chen flashed a dazzling smile accordingly and delivered shocking words, “Actually, Her Highness is not sick.”
These words stunned all those present.
Did Jiang Chen want to die? He dared to say that the princess was not sick after all that hoopla? Why would she be like this if not sick?
Eastern Lu had an overwhelming urge to stomp on Jiang Chen’s face, but the reasoning of a king told him to be calm, be calm. He had to let this brat finish even if he was full of hot air.
“I say, what’s with all your expressions? Do you actually want the princess to be sick?”
The duke of Tianshui could hold it in no longer, “Brat Jiang, this is making fun of the king. You are asking for death!”
Jiang Chen rubbed his nose self consciously and said, “Your Majesty, I’ve already said that I received divine guidance to shed light on the princess’ illness. Someone might anger the gods if they continue to jump up and down and make a fuss here.”
Under any other circumstances, Eastern Lu would have definitely thought Jiang Chen was full of nonsense about the entire matter.
However, he couldn’t afford to not believe him at this moment. Firstly, this matter had to do with his beloved daughter’s life and secondly, the kid was caned to death, but not really. Even he didn’t believe that this wasn’t proof of divine intervention. He was well aware of the efficiency of those in charge of carrying out executions, how was it possible to mess up torturing someone to death?
Eastern Lu had no choice but to believe in Jiang Chen due to those two points. He sternly commanded, “Duke of Tianshui, you are dismissed.”
“Your Majesty, this rat is spreading wild rumors…” The Tianshui duke hastily spoke.
“Dismissed!” His king was quite angry.
The duke of Tianshui backed meekly into the crowd. Despite wanting to bring the Jiang family down a notch, he didn’t have the courage to butt heads with his king.
“Your Majesty, the divine being is quite angry. He will not speak until the witless person who spoke out of turn slaps himself three times. But the duke of Tianshui is a mighty duke, wouldn’t it be difficult for him to slap himself?”
“Not to mention considering Your Majesty’s dignity and grace, how could you possibly command a duke to slap himself? It seems that it comes down to a matter of if the duke of Tianshui is truly self aware and loyal to the kingdom. If it was me, I would not hesitate to slap myself 30 times, not just a mere three times.”
The nobles who had come with Eastern Lu started whispering amongst themselves after Jiang Chen had spoken. Some thought Jiang Chen was making it all up, while others thought there was a great deal of truth in the situation.
Of course, they weren’t the ones who needed to slap themselves. They were all audience members and thus felt no pressure. They cast their eyes as one to the duke of Tianshui in the middle of the crowd.
Those around the duke consciously vacated the vicinity and consciously maintained a certain distance from him, highlighting the duke’s location.
The duke of Tianshui suddenly felt a cold breeze wash over him. He realized with despair in that moment that out of all his peers, not a single person was willing to stand up for him. It was as if the whole world was ostracizing him.