The ML, who hadn’t spoken all this while, turned his sharp gaze to Shi Sheng and broke his silence, “From what I(z) know, Third Uncle only had a son, not a daughter.”
“Exactly! Where did this daughter come from? Lord Zhuang, don’t speak nonsense!”
“The Third Prince’s child has long since left this world—we personally witnessed his burial. How could he still be alive? And turn into a girl?”
The suspicions and doubts came in waves, but Zhuang-fu maintained his calm. “The Third Princess Consort had raised Xiao’qiong as a boy, so naturally outsiders were unaware that she was a girl.”
‘Alright, I guess that’s a decent explanation.’
“Then how do you explain her coming back from the dead?”
Zhuang-fu cleared his throat. “If the Third Prince hadn’t obscured the truth about her death, do you think he’d have been able to protect his only child?”
Everyone exchanged glances.
“This is the Princess Consort’s jade pendant. I believe everyone recognises it.”
Zhuang-fu took it out. It looked similar to Ming Jin’s, only with different patterning.
People passed the jade around and inspected it, eliciting yet another bout of whispered discussion.
Every prince had two special jade pendants. When he got married, one of them would be given to his first wife as a symbol of her status.
“Anyone could’ve gotten their hands on this pendant…”
It had been utter chaos then, so there was a possibility that someone could’ve taken the pendant in all the commotion.
“Don’t all of you know what this jade represents? Not a single consort of a Prince has ever lost this jade. The jade follows her to her death.”
“Do you have any other evidence, Lord Zhuang? Are you expecting us to be convinced with your one-sided claim and a jade pendant?”
Shi Sheng’s expression was very colourful as she watched these people debate. ‘Though I guess this explains why Zhuang-fu was so adamant about Zhuang Qiong having a kid with Yuwen Xun. She’s a girl, so she’s not allowed to inherit the throne, but if she gave birth to a son, Zhuang-fu could push the kid onto the throne.’
Zhuang-fu taking action now was probably due to the falling out between him and Yuwen Xun that forced him to play his hand.
The Third Prince and the preceding Emperor weren’t born of the same mother, so by Yuwen Xun’s generation, the blood relation was even weaker, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch for Zhuang Qiong and Yuwen Xun to have a child.
“I have witnesses!” Zhuang-fu declared, whereupon the sounds of debate immediately ceased.
Zhuang-fu dispatched people to bring in the witnesses.
There were two of them. One was the midwife who’d birthed the child, while the other was one of the Third Princess Consort’s dowry maids. She had been chased out of the Prince’s household on accusations of theft, so she’d managed to survive.
The midwife stated that the child she delivered was a girl, and that the Princess Consort had been afraid of losing favour due to giving birth to a girl, so she had deliberately lied to the Third Prince about the child being a boy.
The Third Princess Consort told the dowry maid who was chased out to get people to dig up the child after it was buried and to take it away from this place. But the maid never expected that when she did so, the child was already gone.
It was only when Zhuang-fu came looking for her that she knew about the Third Prince asking for Zhuang-fu’s help in secret.
The truth behind her leaving had been known to the people around the Third Prince and his consort. Probably because the Third Prince was afraid someone would spill the beans, he looked for Zhuang-fu as a backup plan.
Since the child had originally been a female dressed in male’s clothing, all they had to do was revert her back to girl’s clothing and raise her in the Zhuang Clan for a few years.
In ancient times, outsiders pretty much never got to see the girls of the household, so naturally no one was suspicious.
“Third Prince held no rebellious sentiment—it was the preceding Emperor who forced the Third Prince to a road of death and even pinned the title of traitor on his brother. Those of you around back then, aren’t you clear on what kind of person the Third Prince was?”
Upon Zhuang-fu’s words, the old officials were a bit swayed. They had been neutral back then, but that was for the sake of protecting themselves. Had they been forced to pick, they naturally believed that the Third Prince was more suitable for the throne.
“I(z) can help Third Uncle clear his name.” Yuwen Xun conceded. “If things truly are as Lord Zhuang claims, I(z) can make Zhuang Qiong my Empress, as well as forgive your impudence today.”
“Hmph! This throne should have gone to the Third Prince—why should you be allowed to continue sitting on it? Today I will take back what rightfully belongs to the Third Prince!” Zhuang-fu clearly wasn’t willing to compromise.
Zhuang-fu merely wanted a suitable casus belli, but he was still usurping the throne nonetheless. He was determined to dethrone Yuwen Xun today.
Yuwen Xun’s eyes narrowed, the light in his eyes turning dangerous.
Shi Sheng pouted. ‘Zhuang-fu, you’re too naïve. Do you think the ML would just let you strut around like this? He’s clearly stalling for time.’
“Father, why don’t you kill him first?” Shi Sheng incited Zhuang-fu.
Everyone, “…” ‘What are you planning? Do you think you can kill an emperor so easily?!’
Yuwen Xun glared at Shi Sheng. ‘This woman is on their side!’
Zhuang-fu looked at Shi Sheng, nonplussed, whereupon she kindly explained her reasoning to him, “If you keep waiting, his people are gonna arrive. Then you’ll be the one in jail.”
Zhuang-fu was woken by Shi Sheng’s words. He waved his arm. “Charge!”
He had a proper cause to use as moral grounds, so no matter how these people died, he’d just have to make up an excuse later.
The imperial guards surrounding Yuwen Xun and company immediately charged towards them, but halfway there, they suddenly turned around and joined forces with Yuwen Xun’s protectors to deal with Zhuang-fu’s people.
Shi Sheng shook her head. ‘Just knew it’d be like this. If you can buy people over, so can your opponent.’
But Zhuang-fu’s reaction was unexpected; he showed no sign of panic at this sudden betrayal.
The tightly shut window to the chamber was forcefully broken open and countless black-clothed men leapt in from the outside, joining in the fray.
Zhuang-fu looked at Yuwen Xun through the crowd, smiling coldly. “Your Majesty, you underestimate me. How could I have put my faith in them?”
Yuwen Xun’s hands balled into fists, his eyes growing red as he glared at Zhuang-fu, a burning fire in their depths.
“Your Majesty, you should leave at once! We’re about to fall!” De-gonggong pulled Yuwen Xun back. “Why isn’t General Wei here yet?”
“No need to wait up for General Wei, he’s been trapped by me at least 10 li away from here.” Zhuang-fu soon answered De-gonggong’s question. ‘How could I have attempted to usurp the throne without making all the preparations I could?’
“Your Majesty… Quickly, leave!”
The scene got more and more chaotic.
Ming Jin protected Shi Sheng as he pulled her to the edge of the fighting.
“Girls shouldn’t fight so much.” Ming Jin had Shi Sheng trapped in his arms. “Who do you want to kill? I can help.”
“I wasn’t planning on killing anyone.” Shi Sheng glared at him. ‘Am I(bbb) that violent?’
‘Who asked you? Are you looking to get taken apart?’
[……] ‘*cries* Scared.’
Faint ripples appeared in Ming Jin’s eyes. “Your expression looks like you want to eat someone—you’re telling me you don’t feel like killing anyone?”
“…I really wasn’t.” Shi Sheng weakly explained.
Although she had been considering it, just thinking about the leads’ powerful ‘unkillable’ buff made her give up on it. Though she’d been testing out ways to kill the leads, reality proved that this buff was simply invincible. She hadn’t found a bug she could exploit yet.
 A maid given as part of a dowry to the husband’s family. Yes, technically he can have them as bedwarmers.
 One li is half a kilometre, but kilometre is a pretty modern term, so I opted for the pinyin. I usually translate to kilometres if not in speech, or if in speech, only in modern settings.
Ming Jin: Who do you want to kill? I’ll help you.
Shi Sheng: You.
Ming Jin: …My what lovely weather today. I’ll take you to go see the stars.
Shi Sheng: What happened to being willing to die for me?
Ming Jin: When did I say that?
Shi Sheng: Haha.
Ming Jin: You’ll be upset if I die, so I won’t.
Shi Sheng: Haha.