Old Madam Ming gave up on trying to figure out what the Empress wanted.
So many prime ministers and famous officials couldn’t see through her, how could Old Madam Ming accomplish what they couldn’t? Old Madam Ming comforted herself, even if the Empress did not intend to reinstate the crown prince, it would be good for Ming Huazhang to meet some young talents to pave the way for his future official career.

It’s just that being an official of Gaozong’s reign, Old Madam Ming couldn’t help but feel miserable when she couldn’t envision a prince of the Li family1 gaining power for a long time.

For the Ming family to come to this point, it had to start with Wu Zhou’s2 usurpation of the Tang dynasty more than ten years ago.

The current Empress was originally Gaozong’s Empress.
Later, she took the throne from her son and proclaimed herself Emperor.
After she claimed the throne, the original Li imperial family became a thorn in her side that could destabilize her rule.
In the early years from Chuigong to Tianshou3, the previous imperial family was almost slaughtered.
Now her son, the former emperor who had ascended to the throne but was dragged down by her, was now the crown prince and had become an extremely awkward existence.

The crown prince showed filial respect to his mother in the palace, and this filial respect lasted for ten years.
Outside the palace, the officials wanted to see him, but at the same time, they were afraid of seeing him.
Now, the Empress had finally loosened her hold and was willing to let the crown prince and his son out to get a breath of fresh air.
Unexpectedly, it was not the eldest di son of the crown prince who was let out, but the third shu son, Linzi Wang, and the fourth shu son, Baling Wang.

They weren’t the eldest nor the di sons, they couldn’t represent the crown prince at all, so what’s the use in them coming out to attend the banquet?

The Zhen Duke manor’s Ming family started from Taizong’s4 generation.
Over the years, they had a close relationship with the imperial family and made great contributions.
Ming Huaiyuan had also once served as crown prince Zhanghuai’s5 bodyguard.

This should have been a sure path to a high position, who would have known that an Empress would emerge from the sky and cut off the Ming family’s future.
Old Madam Ming sighed again, all that was left of the Ming family were remnants from their disastrous defeat; over the years, Duke Zhen had become an insignificant person in the court, leading some hard and tiring tasks without credit.
He couldn’t even make it back this year to celebrate the new year.

The family was experiencing a downturn, but looking at her grandson, Huazhang, who was a child with splendid prospects made Old Madam Ming feel better.
Old Madam Ming said to Ming Huazhang, “I’m an old woman now, I won’t be bothered anymore.
Second young master, the Feihong banquet, you can take second miss with you.
There’s snow on the mountain, and the road may be difficult to travel, so be extra careful.”

Ming Huazhang had no objections about going to the banquet on behalf of the Zhen Duke manor, but Old Madam Ming specially arranged for Ming Huashang to go as well, naturally, she had thought it through.

First of all, they were fraternal twins, which was a good omen and would please their superiors; secondly, the storm was coming.
While Old Madam Ming did not want to make her bet in advance, they still had to start preparing their recourse.
Letting Ming Huazhang go to connect with the young masters and Ming Huashang to scout out news among the womenfolk was neither too enthusiastic nor would it leave a pretext, their position would be just right.
As for why she didn’t send her other granddaughters… Of course, it was because Ming Huashang was well-behaved enough to not think about the things she shouldn’t.

This banquet will be held for three or four days.
With so many young boys and girls feasting and playing on the mountain during the banquet if, by any chance, a Ming family’s daughter and a certain Junwang got into trouble Old Madam Ming might vomit blood.

Ming Huazhang cupped his hands in acceptance.
His eyes swept over Ming Huashang, and he did not try to hide his disapproval, “Thank you for grandmother’s reminder.
But going together…”

Ming Huashang raised her head subconsciously, meeting Ming Huazhang’s eyes.

Not bad, Ming Huazhang lived up to his jade young master reputation, with sharp eyebrows and starry eyes, a high nose bridge, and slightly pursed lips.
He had a very outstanding appearance.
But at this moment, his eyes were filled with scrutiny and criticism, like a ball of snow that was hard to please.
He made people feel that his being arrogant and disinterested was how he ought to be.

The eyes from the dream suddenly flashed across Ming Huashang’s mind.

At that time, he still looked cold and alienated like he did now, but when everyone was pointing at her, he was the only one who stood out and told Duke Zhen who insisted on driving her away, “She didn’t do anything wrong.
The fault with the Su’s has nothing to do with her.
How can a helpless girl like her protect herself outside, just let her stay in the Duke manor.”

Ming Huashang felt that just based on what he said, she was willing to believe that he was not the one who killed her.
Just before the words of refusal were about to come out his mouth, Ming Huashang suddenly interrupted Ming Huazhang, “I want to go to the Feihong banquet to gain some experience, can second elder brother take me with you?”

Ming Huashang was traumatized now, she didn’t know who wanted to kill her, and she didn’t know how she died, so she couldn’t help but start to examine everyone around her.

The second branch was concubine born, their status was lower, yet they were proud and arrogant and looked down on her as they found her useless.
The third branch was the youngest son of Old Madam Ming, and he was very favored.
Ming Shuo’s upbringing since she was a child made her arrogant and indulgent, she wanted the best of everything.
Even though Ming Huashang was laid-back, she couldn’t avoid having several conflicts with Ming Shuo.

Before the dream, Ming Huashang only felt that it was expected, it was normal for a family to have quarrels.
But now, the once innocuous quarrel has now become a murderous motive.
The second aunt, third aunt, eldest sister, third younger sister, and those few cousins, it was as if each of them could be a possible murderer.

There were also servants and stewards of the Duke manor… without thinking about it carefully, Ming Huashang originally felt that she had great relations with others, but now, she was surprised to realize that she seemed to have offended many people.

Inside this huge manor, Ming Huashang could only trust Ming Huazhang.
These days, Duke Zhen was away suppressing the bandits and had yet to return, and Ming Huazhang was going to attend the banquet, how could Ming Huashang dare to stay in the manor alone?

Even if she had to climb mountains of swords and enter seas of flames6, she had to go out with Ming Huazhang!


Li was the surname of the Tang dynasty rulers; being part of a noble clan whose power was bestowed by the previous Emperor, who was a Li, it’s unsurprising that she supports the previous reigning Li family 武周 (Wu Zhou) this is the dynasty name Wu Zetian established 16 October 690 – 21 April 692 (18 months): Wu Zetian’s first era title during her reign; do you still remember which era this novel starts off in (hint: the answer is in the first sentence of chapter 1)? Emperor Gaozong’s father, Emperor Taizong, Wu Zetian’s first husband Wu Zetian’s and Emperor Gaozong’s second son 上刀山下火海to go through trials and tribulations (often, for a noble cause)

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