29: Execution

Trials for severe crimes were held at an official area in the forest, passed Yinying Yueguang. The area was bare, plants burnt away to create a dirt floor for the accused to kneel. Rumours told that after beheadings, red flowers popped out from the cracks in the earth, searching to shower in blood. Jiang, covered in dried blood, fell to ground here, waiting for judgment from noblemen and commoners. Blood dribbled out from her mouth; her tongue had been cut out. No one cared though, assuming she attempted suicide by biting and swallowing her tongue. Of course, this this was far from the truth.

A carved stone with a groove for the neck sat directly in front of the accused. Silently, Jiang stared at the royal family and councillors, noticing the contrast in appearance. Dark circles appeared under noblemen and Cheng's eyes, showing their sleepless nights preparing for the new emperor’s enthronement. Meanwhile, Qiaolian and Huli looked refreshed, the white clothes of mourning not matching their anticipating expressions.

The trial was tampered with from the start. The evidence to prosecute Jiang appeared before her arrival, stopping any objection from her. Qiaolian and Xiaoli had explained the horrific scene they witnessed when they entered to have tea with the empress. Maids in the imperial building supported this lie. Then, the medical examiner had confirmed that both rulers of Shanhe were killed by a sword, stolen from the prince’s belongings, and dismissed any other possible cause of death.

The Fox – dressed as a commoner – watched the trial in the crowd, shaking their head in disbelief at the bias. The performance of twisted truths irritated them. They were disappointed to find the emperor already dead in his chambers that night and had a heavy heart when stumbling upon the empress. The empress shouldn’t have suffered more than she already had in this lifetime. Neither did the innocent deserve to die.

“Lin Jiang. You are charged with thievery and treason. You stole the Crowned Prince’s prized sword and used it to kill the emperor and empress of Shanhe. The evidence presented has finalised our decision as members of the imperial council. You shall be executed by beheading,” Cheng read off a scroll, given to him by the prince.

“Proceed!” Huli ordered.

Everyone began chanting as Jiang’s neck lay on the rock’s groove. The woman slumped, completely defeated and accepting her fate. A single tear streamed down her cheek as she recalled the most happiness moment of her life. The Fox turned around, unable to watch the soldier raise the sword and slice down through the flesh and bone, causing an indescribable and disgusting sound. The crowd cheered. Blood quenched the thirst of the dry ground, feeding the flower seeds hidden beneath the dirt. Jiang’s head rolled over, her dead eyes staring accusingly at Huli.