Rise & Fall
Princess Tai An who was still fifteen years old spent days processing the fact that she had indeed, turned into a ghost.
Not just any ghost, however, but a paper-thin ghost that was bound to a book!
When she finally came to terms with reality, the next thing was to adapt to her current state and find ways to deal with her boredom. She rolled around on top of the book that she was bound to for over thirty years, which was entitled ‘Ancestors’ Teachings’, and glanced at the boy who sat silently by the window.
All this while, they had stayed together in this place. Somehow, he accepted the fact that she was a paper-thin ghost sooner than she did.
Tai An scrutinised him carefully. He was just a scrawny, twelve or thirteen-year-old boy. His skin was of a slightly darker tone, with thick eyebrows and high cheekbones, making him seem rather fierce. Overall, he did not seem like other pampered nobles in the palace who lived a life of luxury. But, he wore an extravagant apricot-coloured robe embroidered with a large four-clawed python, and two gold dragons on the upper part of his sleeves.
Hmm…that is definitely the standard everyday robe for a Crown Prince, Tai An thought. When she was younger, she had seen her elder brother wearing a similar garment countless times. She would certainly not mistake such a robe for another.
This young boy is surely the Crown Prince.
Tai An’s eyes were still fixated on him. She asked, “My enemies…are they really dead? All of them?”
The young Crown Prince was not affected by her relentless staring, his expression remained as calm and composed. When he heard her question, he merely raised his eyebrow slightly, and slowly nodded. “Yes. All dead.”
She still could not believe it. Thirty years had passed and she had completely missed the rise and fall of an entire dynasty.
The head of the Five Cities Military Department that guarded the Inner Capital City, General Li Chongyou, who possessed the military seal was the great Defender Duke. Tai An’s father, the Emperor, admired him immensely for his capabilities and so, he married his beloved daughter to General Li’s second son, Li Yanxiu.
On the night of the rebellion, Prince Consort, Li Yanxiu rushed to the Weiyang Palace on a large horse, claiming he was there to help the Emperor.
He hollered, “Princess Tai An, daughter to His Majesty! You have grown arrogant under His Majesty’s love, interfered with the workings of the Imperial Court, and plotted to murder His Majesty for the position of the Crown Princess!”
His voice was loud and clear as he shouted with all his might. When she had just perished in the scorching flames that engulfed the palace, he had publicly accused her of killing her father to secure her rightful spot on the throne.
Only after death did she realise, the one she had trusted with all her heart, her dearest Prince Consort, had schemed against her for over ten years while pretending to be a doting husband. All the pretense and lies he spouted were merely for her father’s throne that was frigidly cold to the touch.
But, Li Yanxiu did not live until the day he could wear the Emperor’s robe.
Ten years after Li Chongyou, the great Defender Duke usurped the throne, he suddenly passed away on the night of the Ghost Festival. That night, lightning tore the sky apart and the rain poured relentlessly. When Li Yanxiu, who had then succeeded military power from his father, led an army to the Xuanwu Gate, intending to march into the palace to announce his ascension to the throne, the Lord of Ding, Lu Qi caught him by surprise and ambushed him from all sides with his own soldiers.
Countless arrows whistled through the air and Li Yanxiu was later found to be shot dead, his body lay sprawling before one of the gilded pillars of Qingliang Hall of Weiyang Palace.
Exactly the same spot where Tai An was killed.
As the saying goes, regardless of how many lifetimes have passed, the good and bad shall face their respective karma.
Lord of Ding, Lu Qi, who had plotted for revenge while living in hiding in Xianyang Province for many years, had successfully put an end to the reign of the Li family, which lasted for merely ten years. After that, Lu Qi remained in Chang’An City and restored the nation’s title back to Great Yan.
The young Crown Prince, sitting a few meters away from Tai An, was the descendant of Lu Qi’s extended family that succeeded the throne after a few generations of short-lived emperors.
Tai An let out a heavy sigh. She was glad that someone had taken revenge on her behalf, but at the same time, she was at a loss. Thirty years had passed in a blink of an eye and she had no idea what to do with all the pent-up hatred she felt.
As time went by and another dynasty had fallen, both her benefactor and enemy also perished in the tides of time.
“What should I do then? Why have I returned when I cannot take revenge against my enemies nor could I show my gratitude to my benefactors?” Tai An muttered to herself and pondered for a moment, before turning to ask the young Crown Prince, “What do you think?”
“Also, what did you say about me being mentioned in history books earlier? That I poisoned my father because I desired the position of the Crown Princess? And the Defender Duke, General Li, and his son gathered the army in the name of the Emperor to kill me, then succeeded the throne, is that right?”
The young Crown Prince raised a brow at her and shot her an emotionless glare without speaking.
Tai An abruptly stood up from the book, boiling with fury. “I am not who you think I am! My father, mother, and elder brother treated me like I was their most precious treasure in the entire world. We lived in harmony and I never ever desired some stupid Crown Princess title.” Even if she was a paper-thin ghost, one could still notice her chest rising and falling slightly as she panted angrily. “When my father heard the news of my brother falling from his horse, he fainted and was bedridden for months. Before he passed away, he was unable to eat or drink for days. How could I have poisoned him then?”
To successfully usurp the throne, Li Chongyou and his son spread rumours of the Emperor’s intentions to grant Tai An the title of Crown Princess. Then, on the night of the rebellion, they led the army into the Inner City, with the noble cause of stopping Tai An from murdering the Emperor. In the end, they denounced Tai An for committing treason by successfully killing her father. They recorded her death in the history books as being rightfully killed for her crimes.
“The reign of my ancestors and my father lasted for over a hundred years and every official in the Imperial Court was treated with the greatest respect, but when disaster strikes, no one stood up and helped to protect the Emperor nor sacrificed themselves to defend the nation from the rebels. All of them merely kneeled in surrender on the grounds before the Jinluan Palace. Yet, they blamed me, a young, powerless Princess for treason.”
The ending of the story was set in stone, but Tai An anger’s could not be quelled.
Although she was now just a mere ghost, as thin as paper and as large as the palm of a person’s hand, her burning rage caused her hands to quiver slightly, and she clenched her fists tightly.
“As the saying goes, the victor becomes king while those who lost become the traitor. History is written by victors after all,” The young Crown Prince said in an emotionless tone, causing TaiAn to be unsure if he was trying to comfort her or mock her. Then, he said, “When the new Emperor ascends the throne and orders for the historical records to be altered, charging you with the crimes of murdering your own father and committing treason, your name shall be tainted for the rest of eternity.”
He shrugged. “It is your fault for dying so soon. You failed to stay alive until the moment you ascend to the throne.” When he spoke, his face darkened with an ominous expression.
Tai An was not offended by what he said at all. Instead, she was enlightened and her eyes suddenly lit up.
“Little Crown Prince! How are you so smart?” She leaped from the floor and floated over onto his study table.
“History is written by order of the Emperor! Since you are the Crown Prince, you are the future Emperor, am I right?” She cocked her head to one side and looked at him with radiant, expectant eyes. “You already know the truth now. So, why don’t you help me clear my name by changing the historical records when you succeed to the throne? That would set things right, would it not?”
Tai An instantly felt more hopeful that she could be absolved of all crimes. She looked at the young Crown Prince with glee and stared at him delightedly for a while. Now that she was nearer to him, she took a closer look and she suddenly realised a dire issue.
“Hmm?” Tai An hesitated for a moment before asking in a skeptical tone, “Although you are a Crown Prince, you seem to have a rather…miserable life.”
She swiveled around to observe the interior of the palace they were in. Upon first sight, one would assume this was his study. Although it was lavishly decorated with various items, everything seemed to be mismatched and arranged in bad taste, as if the servants who were responsible merely wish to quickly complete their task by simply choosing a few expensive items from the royal warehouse and sloppily placing them around without attention to style.
The large dark-coloured study table by the window side was mostly empty, without any interesting little ornaments adorning it. However, the young Crown Prince did not seem to care about any of it. He merely sat quietly by the table as usual, and diligently copied the text from the book entitled ‘Ancestors’ Teachings’, which was the same book Tai An was bound to.
She also noticed a shabby bed in the inner room, separated from the study with a plain folding screen. Ever since Tai An woke up, she never once saw the young Crown Prince leave the study. Every day, he would wake up early in the morning, resume copying the text from the book, and then go to sleep in the inner room at night.
His daily meals were brought over by a servant, who always came in with a grim expression. She would lower her head to bow to him and then leave without saying a word. Tai An was even more surprised when she peeked at his food, which was all simple dishes that could be easily cooked by way of steaming. Even her own personal servants enjoyed better food back then!
How could he be the Crown Prince? Besides his robe, everything about this seems entirely unbefitting for a Crown Prince!
Tai An turned to him, her eyes widening in shock at what she realised. “Little Crown Prince, are you being imprisoned here?”
Please note that Chapter 1 is the prologue and this chapter (C2) comes right after that. ^^