Thousand Miles of Heaven Chapter 64

Ch 64 “Even if I’m in h*ll, I’ll still chase after you.”

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The next day, Xie Chaoling received an imperial edict from the Emperor in Jizhou, ordering him to stay in the Eastern Palace to rest and not to step out of the palace or transmit any messages to the outside world. He was also forbidden to interfere in any military or political affairs.

This was tantamount to house arrest for Xie Chaoling.

In the following days, rumors swept through the city, with both the inner and outer cities of the capital and the imperial city under martial law. Although Xie Chaoling could not leave the Eastern Palace, he still received news from outside. The attempted assassination of him, the Crown Prince, by the Dongshan Ying had spread throughout the city like wildfire. However, someone had preemptively spread the news that he had colluded with the commander of the Dongshan Ying, and was taken into custody by the Emperor in Jizhou, implying that he had concocted this false-flag operation to avoid punishment.

Xie Chaoling paid no attention to the rumors outside. He was only waiting for the Emperor to return to the palace.

During this period, Xie Fengzhen came to visit him in the Eastern Palace once. Xie Chaoling was changing his bandages at the time, and Xie Fengzhen saw the hideous scar on his chest and frowned, “How did you get this?”

“I was abducted by someone and when I found a chance to escape, I was caught up with and suffered this knife wound. Luckily, I managed to escape back,” Xie Chaoling said.

“Was it really someone from the Dongshan Ying who abducted you?” Xie Fengzhen asked.

“I’m not sure, but they were wearing the uniforms of the Dongshan Ying,” Xie Chaoling said casually.

Xie Fengzhen stared at him and suddenly sighed, “Crown Prince, you are lying.”

Xie Chaoling remained unchanged, “Why do you say that, Uncle?”

“In my presence, you used to be willing to tell the truth. But now, you don’t even trust me, your uncle?”

Xie Chaoling pursed his lips, not responding.

His reaction had confirmed Xie Fengzhen’s guess: “Crown Prince, do you remember when I asked you before why you had to hide your true nature? What was your answer then?”

“You said that as a crown prince and heir to the throne, you are the future monarch of the world. You don’t need your own preferences, nor do you need any weaknesses. I used to think that this wasn’t good, and that you were pushing yourself too hard. But now I realize that you are the person who understands yourself the most.”

“Once you have someone or something you care about, you’ll have weaknesses, and your bottom line will continue to retreat.”

Xie Chaoling lowered his eyes and fell silent for a while. He asked in a low voice, “Uncle, what about you… Is your nephew your weakness? Have you ever regretted losing him on the battlefield all those years ago?”

Xie Fengzhen was slightly stunned, then shook his head and said, “Your cousin sacrificed himself for the country. It was his aspiration and ambition, as well as mine. Not being able to save him is my lifelong regret, but I don’t regret it. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t stop him from going. But, Crown Prince, it’s different for you. That person is not someone who can stand by your side. You and him have different pursuits and principles in life, and there are many external factors that do not allow for his existence in your life. His presence for you has no benefits, only harms.”

With a bleak expression on his face, Xie Chaoling self-deprecatingly said, “I know. How could I not know what Royal Uncle said? Before, I only wanted to be a qualified heir according to Royal Father’s wishes, and even tried to do better than the former Crown Prince, so that no one could find fault with me. It was exhausting, but over the years, I had grown accustomed to it. I thought I could continue like that until the accident happened, and I lost my memory and ended up in King Ke’s residence.”

“In fact, it wasn’t an accident. It was all that b*stard’s deliberate plan. He went to great lengths to keep me there, even locking me up and preventing me from seeing anyone. But I felt happy there, happier than ever before. I didn’t have to hide my true nature or be overly cautious all the time. When Royal Uncle asked me if I had any selfish motives, I lied to you. I dragged my feet and didn’t want to come back because I did have selfish motives. Even now, I still have them.”

Xie Fengzhen looked at Xie Chaoling with some sympathy but had to remind him, “But he has already threatened your personal situation and your position. Are you going to continue to condone him?”

Xie Chaoling gave a bitter laugh and spoke more softly, “I know it’s wrong, but I can’t control my own heart. I can’t choose the right thing to do.”

“What if you regret it later?”

“…Let’s deal with that later.”

Seven days later, Emperor Qianming returned to the court.

Xie Fengzhen led a team of soldiers to welcome him at the foot of Dongshan. A few days ago, he had already taken over the Dongshan Ying with the emperor’s secret decree, and Xu Shan did not resist. Other generals who were not willing to submit were also arrested, but fortunately, there were no major incidents.

Emperor Qianming’s face was gloomy. After hearing Xie Fengzhen’s report on the situation in the capital, he asked, “How is the Crown Prince?”

“The Crown Prince was stabbed in the chest but luckily managed to escape and has been recuperating in the Eastern Palace for the past few days.”

“Is it serious?”

“The imperial physician said the wound was only a few inches away from a vital organ, but he was fortunate.”

Emperor Qianming’s expression turned increasingly ugly as he listened, but his anger towards Xie Chaoling lessened slightly. “So the assassin was indeed from Dongshan Ying?”

“According to Xiao Yanji, his deputy commander went with soldiers to investigate the scene, but they did not find the body of the assassin. However, the Crown Prince saw with his own eyes that those people were wearing Dongshan Ying uniforms. Later, Xiao Yanji found several escaped soldiers from the Forbidden Army, who also confirmed the Crown Prince’s account,” Xie Chaoling reported.

“Commander He and several of his subordinates fled to Jizhou, and their account matches yours. The attackers who ambushed them looked like soldiers from the Dongshan Ying, but according to them, Xie Chaoling was abducted by those people.”

This all seemed absurd to Emperor Qianming, who furrowed his brow. Xie Fengzhen reminded him, “Your Majesty, you sent Commander He and the Forbidden Army to escort the Crown Prince to Jizhou, but you did not make it public. The news only spread after the Crown Prince left with Commander He. Whoever the assassin was, they must have been well-prepared to react so quickly. I suspect that the leak may have happened before Commander He arrived in the capital.”

This was essentially accusing someone close to the Emperor of leaking information. Emperor Qianming was not pleased, “I know. I have already ordered an investigation into this matter.”

Later that day, Emperor Qianming summoned Xie Chaoling to the palace. Xie Chaoling was helped inside and knelt down to apologize. He did not dare to stand up without the Emperor’s permission.

Emperor Qianming saw how pale and weak Xie Chaoling looked, and held back his urge to scold him. He ordered Xie Chaoling to be helped up and seated, and then dismissed everyone from the court.

“Do you know how many rumors there have been about you lately? You are my Crown Prince, how dare you conspire with the generals of Dongshan Ying and act on your own? What do you really want?” The Emperor suppressed his anger and questioned him.

Xie Chaoling coughed for a while and said with difficulty, “I know I have done wrong and dare not argue. Father, whatever punishment you decide for me, I am willing to accept it. I only ask for another chance to reform myself.”

The Emperor raised his voice, “So you really want to seize military power? What do you want to do? Are you so eager to take my place before I die?!”

“No, no,” Xie Chaoling was so anxious that he kept coughing, his face turning red as he struggled to kneel down, constantly kowtowing, “Father, I swear, I only have a personal relationship with General Xu of Dongshan Ying, but I have no other intentions. I only want to help him eliminate dissidents and control Dongshan Ying. I also want to take this opportunity to strike back at the Zhao family. I have no disloyal intentions!”

He took two steps forward while still kneeling, his eyes turning red: “Ever since I became the crown prince, I have been walking on thin ice and being cautious with my words and deeds. I dare not make any mistakes, but despite this, there are still people who not only nitpick at me, but even want to take my life. I was truly scared after the incident at Dongshan Ying. After returning to the palace, I couldn’t sleep peacefully at night. I either dreamt of falling off a cliff or being burned to death. I was really possessed and wanted to fight back and take revenge, which led me to do such a thing.”

“I know how people outside are discussing me. They say that I used the trick of feigning illness to escape punishment and designed this assassination plot by myself. But this time, I almost lost my life!” Xie Chaoling said as he opened his clothes and tore off the bandage that covered his wound, revealing a horrifying scarlet wound. Emperor Qianming was startled and stepped back two steps. Xie Chaoling raised his eyes, full of tears, and said: “Is this huge wound caused by myself? If it deviates a little more, perhaps I would never see Royal Father again.”

Emperor Qianming looked at the scar for a while, then slowly closed his eyes in a hoarse voice, “You can stand up and speak. Don’t kneel with your injuries.”

Xie Chaoling breathed a sigh of relief quietly.

Although Emperor Qianming was suspicious, as long as one apologized honestly without being clever or making excuses and showed weakness, this strategy was indeed effective. Moreover, taking advantage of this incident, Emperor Qianming finally had an excuse to completely settle accounts with Dongshan Ying. It is feared that none of the remaining members of the Zhao family’s old department can escape punishment. Therefore, even if Dongshan Ying did not do this, they would still be held responsible.

It is a pity for Xu Shan, and also for Xie Chaoling himself, who will never have the opportunity to touch military power again.

Father and son talked for nearly two hours, with Xie Chaoling constantly weeping and repenting, finally barely passing this test.

When he came out from Emperor Qianming’s place, it was already dusk. Seeing Xie Chaoyuan standing at the bottom of the steps, Xie Chaoling stopped his steps.

Xie Chaoyuan seemed to have lost weight in the past few days, but his eyes were even more cold and stern. He looked fine in spirit, unlike himself who had feigned illness to make the emperor feel sorry for him.

Xie Chaoyuan also saw Xie Chaoling standing on the high ground, but only glanced at him before looking away.

The emperor returned to the palace, and he came to pay his respects on purpose.

When they passed by each other, Xie Chaoling asked softly, “Are you feeling better?”

Xie Chaoyuan turned his head and looked at him with a smile that was not quite a smile. “The crown prince has great skills, and you have softened His Majesty’s heart. I am in awe.”

Although the incident of Xie Chaoling being injured was not spread due to the earlier instruction given to Xiao Yanji to keep it confidential, but Xie Chaoyuan had someone around the emperor who naturally heard it. Seeing Xie Chaoling coming out of the emperor’s palace unscathed, they knew that he had once again managed to deceive his way out of trouble.

In fact, it was not as simple as it seemed. Although Emperor Qianming had softened his heart, there was still a rift between him and Xie Chaoling, the crown prince. In the end, he ordered Xie Chaoling to return to the Eastern Palace to recuperate and not to leave without permission, which was tantamount to placing him under house arrest and preventing him from attending court.

Xie Chaoling had risked his life to escape from the assassins and yet, all he had gained was this result. In a way, he should thank Xie Chaoyuan. Without his intervention, Xie Chaoling might have been taken to Jizhou and met a fate worse than being stripped of his title.

“How are your injuries?” Xie Chaoling asked again, deliberately ignoring the sarcasm in Xie Chaoyuan’s words.

Xie Chaoyuan looked at him, his eyes full of coldness.

“Thanks to the Crown Prince’s generosity, I’m not dead yet.”

Xie Chaoling was provoked by his words and their eyes met. His expression gradually turned cold.

As they were about to leave, Xie Chaoyuan suddenly reached out and grabbed his arm.

Xie Chaoling didn’t look at him. “Let go, Sixth Brother. Don’t let Father’s people see.”

“Crown Prince, please cherish your life. If one day you play yourself to death, I will pursue you even in h*ll.” Xie Chaoyuan said viciously.

Xie Chaoling frowned. Xie Chaoyuan had already let go, sneered and walked into the hall ahead of him.

King Huai’s mansion.

Xie Chaoqi absentmindedly sipped tea. The person sitting in front of him was none other than Li Huan.

After losing an ear, he was no longer fit to serve in front of the emperor. After he recovered from his injuries, Emperor Qianming personally instructed him to take up a non-duty position in the Ministry of War. Today was his first visit to King Huai’s mansion. Xie Chaoqi didn’t want to pay attention to him, but when he heard that Li Huan had something very important to discuss, he reluctantly let him in.

“I came to King Huai’s mansion today to have a frank talk with you, Your Highness. My ear and fingers were cut off by King Ke. The Crown Prince is heartless and ungrateful. He knew about King Ke’s despicable deeds but sheltered and indulged him. He even forbids me from reporting to the emperor. I want revenge, but I am not a match for King Ke, let alone the Crown Prince.”

Xie Chaoqi looked like he was listening to a joke. “So you came to me? I can’t help you.”

Li Huan didn’t care about his coldness and continued, “I have been keeping an eye on King Ke these days and found that there are Xirong spies appearing on his estate. Later, I had people follow these Xirong people and found that they had obtained the deployment map of the Northwestern Army from King Ke’s hands. Of course, it’s an old one from a few years ago, but those Xirong people probably don’t know that. It seems they will be sending the map out of the capital in the next few days.”

Li Huan was angry. It’s not easy to keep an eye on Xie Chaoyuan. He has sent several people to investigate, but he just happened to discover it. Thanks to those stupid Western barbarians, he was finally able to get them to talk.”

When Xie Chaoqi heard this, his expression changed slightly, and he seemed genuinely interested. “Western barbarians?” he asked.

“Yes. King Ke is colluding with foreign enemies. Even if the drawings he gave are fake, he is still betraying his country!”

“So, if you have evidence, why don’t you report him instead of coming to me?” Xie Chaoqi sneered.

Li Huan took out something and showed it to Xie Chaoling. “I work in the Ministry of War. This is a real map of the current defense deployment of the Northwestern Army, which I stole from the Ministry’s archives and copied. If we replace the map in the hands of those Western barbarians, we can prove that King Ke is colluding with foreign enemies.”

“When those Xirong spies in the capital send the map out, we will capture them. They will be the best witnesses. When the Northwestern Army is defeated, we can reveal this matter and make King Ke die without a burial place! Moreover, King Xing is leading the army in the Northwest now. If the Western barbarians get their hands on this real map and attack the Northwestern Army, King Xing may not be able to return alive! They are all under the Crown Prince. Even if this matter does not implicate the Crown Prince, it is still good to cut off his right-hand man. Now, the Crown Prince is already estranged from the Emperor due to the events at Dongshan Ying. The Emperor’s suspicion of him will only deepen in the future. Your Highness, do you still worry about not having an opportunity?!”

Li Huan became more and more excited as he spoke, his face twisted with hatred and he continued to incite Xie Chaoqi.

Xie Chaoqi’s two most hated people were indeed Xie Chaohui and Xie Chaoyuan. He wished they would die, but…

After thinking for a moment with his eyes lowered, he asked, “So, are you here to defect to me?”

“Indeed!” Li Huan stood up and bowed, “I am alone and weak. As long as Your Highness can help me seek revenge, I am willing to serve you like a loyal dog!”

Xie Chaoqi’s eyes narrowed as he sneered, hiding his disdain. “Then you should first figure out a way to replace the maps in the hands of those Western barbarians.”

After dismissing Li Huan, Song Shi knelt down and whispered a reminder to Xie Chaoqi, “Your Highness, this man seems to have ill intentions.”

Xie Chaoqi’s eyes revealed his contempt. He knew that Li Huan’s words of wanting to surrender to him were just a cover for him to hide behind and do these things, so that Xie Chaoqi would cover for him.

“Why don’t we turn the tables on him? Li Huan is the one who stole the real maps. Does he really think he can get away? When the time comes, we can also push him out. Who knows maybe he will have to bite and cling onto the Crown Prince just to save his life. Even if we don’t implicate the Crown Prince, Li Huan is from the Li family, and how can the Emperor not suspect the Crown Prince? King Ke and King Xing are nothing, it’s better to drag down the Crown Prince.” Song Shi gritted his teeth.

Xie Chaoqi glanced at him and uttered a soft “En”, then said, “Let’s do it this way,” before leaning back on his seat and closing his eyes.

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