35: Blooming Warning

At night, every person in the entire kingdom went to a water source, whether it be a stream or lake, to place a flower or lantern to float into the spirit realm. During this, no one dared utter a single word. Instead, silent prayers filled the heavy air.

Even the palace turned into a quiet temple during this time of mourning. Everyone inside, no matter hierarchy position, gathered along water entrances and streams that flowed inside the bordered wall. Mingzhu joined them, holding two ugly paper flowers. Slaves, although permitted to grieve, had limited supplies to show their sorrow; they were given rations of old paper while nobles carried huge lanterns.

After a chime carried on the wind, she placed them into the water like those around her. Rest in peace Lin Jiang, she thought dangerously before backing into the crowd.

More people shuffled forward and to continue the ceremony, placing their symbols of farewell into the water. From the sky, birds cawed in admiration at the fake fireflies dancing on the waters in snake-like formations. It all looked beautiful for a single moment. Then, sad eyes and sunken hearts were briefly forgotten; something in the stream poisoned the peace.

A body floated in a small boat, scaring the fish and disrupting the lanterns spinning on the water. The woman looked like a goddess sleeping in a meadow of bright flowers from the summer. The strong, floral scents masked wafts of rot. Lace and jewellery hid the dislocation of the head from the neck. The corpse wore a stark white dress, pearls and ruffles adding liveliness, and festive makeup and hairstyling gave character to the lifeless, stiff body. A large, rectangle plank of wood sat on Jiang’s chest, willing anyone able to read the message.

Blaming an innocent was the first mistake as a new emperor, Hong Huli. The Fox comes for you.