I was reminded of something I read on my friend's facebook recently: Should we forgive someone if they didn't mean any
Liu Fu Ling told one harmless lie, not knowing it would lead to a lifetime of pain for Yun Ge. Later on, he was thinking that if only he didn't met Yun Ge, she would have probably be soaring in the open skies with her partner by now, and came to the conclusion that Man shouldn't lie.
Yun Ge didn't mean any harm when she kept pressing Xiao Mei about Liu Fu Ling and whether he truly loved Xiao Mei, not caring that she was further twisting the knife deeper into Xiao Mei's heart. She didn't mean it, but that doesn't mean the pain inflicted was any less.
Meng Jue didn't mean to turn Yun Ge away, he just wanted to rise, to take revenge, but in the process, he caused so much hurt and pain to those around him. Was it worth it? Should we hate him because of that?
How many times in our lives do we actually do something that causes hurt but didn't mean it? Then why do we judge others so harshly when they do the same to us?
Update: CHAPTER COMPLETE I've recently gotten a job so updates won't be as frequent, but I'll do my best
After she climbed the mountain with Liu Fu Ling, Yun Ge thought everything would be like before. But, she was wrong.
Every day after court was dismissed, the first place Liu Fu Ling would go to was still Jiao Fang Hall. He would tour the Imperial Gardens with Xiao Mei by his side, even plucking a fragrant flower for her. Xiao Mei now was like a different person compared to when Yun Ge first met her, her shyness and awkwardness had left, her charm displayed to the fullest.
Yun Ge only grew thinner as each day passed in silence; in the stillness, she waited for her heart to turn into ash. Sometimes she would wake early, or sleep late, waiting for Liu Fu Ling in the garden, in between the palace walls, staring at his departure and return. She used her silence to protect her last bit of pride, but each time she stared at him, her eyes had already betrayed her.
If Liu Fu Ling was willing to look into her eyes, he would definitely be able to see it. When he saw her, he would stop for a moment, but everything they had together was only worth making him stop for just that one moment. He silently walked past her, walking far away. Leaving her to be torn apart and wither in the wind.
A big red lantern hung in Xuan Shi Hall, the carpet and the wall decorations were peppered with drawings of the dragon and phoenix flying together. No one was willing to tell Yun Ge what was about to happen. “Fu Yu, go find out for me, is the palace about to celebrate some happy occasion?”
“His and her majesty are about to go through the ceremony to consummate their marriage.” When Fu Yu came back, his voice was as small as an ant. Yun Ge felt like her organs were being torn apart, silently, she bent down, unmoving, a small smile seemed to play on her lips but cold sweat dripped down her forehead. Liu Fu Ling returned at night, finished washing up and was just about to get onto his pallet when he saw a small person curled up under the heavy silk curtains. He stared at the tiny green figure beneath the curtains, and stiffened where he was.
“Ling Ge Ge, are you still going to give up the throne?” Her tiny voice held a final entreaty. Liu Fu Ling opened his mouth with difficulty “This position comes with difficulties that not one else would be able to understand, but it also comes with everything everyone knows about. I wouldn’t rest easy passing my throne to Liu He or Liu Xun; I want to pass it to my own son.” “You want Xiao Mei to be your ‘true’ Empress?”
After a period of silence, Liu Fu Ling squeezed out the few words through his gritted teeth “Yes! At least for now.”
“What about me?” Yun Ge lifted up her head. Her face was behind the curtains, vague and unclear, but her pained, sorrowful gaze pierced Liu Fu Ling straight through his heart. Liu Fu Ling clenched his hands into fists in his sleeves “I will treat you well, protecting and showing favour on you for the rest of my life. At the moment besides the title of the Empress, I can give you anything else you wish for.” Yun Ge suddenly pulled the silk curtains down, her body trembling uncontrollably. “Ling Ge Ge, in the end, was it you or I who was at fault? You shouldn’t have behaved like that in the beginning if you knew what the result would be.” “You were wrong, and so was I. I was wrong because after walking on all these curved bends, I only realized I was being too naïve just as I was about to give up. You were wrong because up till now, you still cannot compromise a bit. The gods play jokes on us mortal, what in the world is truly perfect? Why do you refuse to grow up? Why can’t you just take a step back?”
Yun Ge stared at Liu Fu Ling, her eyes full of disbelief, but as she searched his frank, expressionless face, it disappeared bit by bit. Finally all the hurt, pain and anger in her eyes were completely buried, and only lifeless darkness remained. She slowly stood up and walked across the stone path barefoot.
The pain in Liu Fu Ling’s chest crashed in around him, and he abruptly closed his eyes.
Just when she was about to walk out of the hall, Yun Ge suddenly remembered something, turned back and said coldly “Your majesty, our promise of old is dead, please return me by pearl embroidered shoe.” Liu Fu Ling’s body trembled slightly; after a moment, he reached into his robe and slowly drew out a pearl embroidered shoe. He seemed to want to give it back, yet didn’t, so
Yun Ge snatched it away and floated out of the hall.
Liu Fu Ling’s hand still hung mid-air in a strange ‘holding’ position, but his hand only held air.
Yun Ge felt like she didn’t know herself any more. Her parents and brothers were all terribly proud people, she too thought she would be like Zhuo Wen Jun.
“They're telling me Your thoughts are double:
That's why I've come
To break it off”
“Broken silk string, imperfect mirror, I swear into the swirling Jin Jiang River, that I will leave your side forever.”
Yet it turned out that she couldn’t cut it off as easily as she thought she could. Maybe it was because this was her “Ling Ge Ge”, or maybe this was because her feelings were already out of her control, no matter what she witnessed or heard, there was still that disbelief in her heart. Purely because of that tiny ray of hope deep down in her heart, she threw aside her pride, cast aside her self-respect, and stood in front of Xiao Mei. Her skirt rippled, her temples held dark clouds of hair, her slim waist accented by the sash tied across. She exuded poetic grace, her charm displayed to the fullest. This was the first time Yun Ge realized that though Xiao Mei’s frame was petite, her features were so exquisite.
Xiao Mei couldn’t control her happiness and twirled a few rounds in front of Yun Ge. “Yun Jie Jie, is it pretty? The skirts are new; his majesty said I didn’t suit those heavy, complicated court robes, so he specially chose this for me.” Yun Ge had never seen Xiao Mei like this, charming, radiant, happy.
Xiao Mei used to look like a stagnant puddle of water under the shadow of the roof, but now she looked like a fresh blooming flower. Yun Ge asked herself, was there still any need to ask? The answer was already so obvious. She should smile and leave, at least salvage her tattered pride. But, her heart wasn’t under her control.
“Xiao Mei, does his majesty truly like you?” Xiao Mei’s face darkened, and looked sharply at Yun Ge, but she hid her displeasure quickly and smiled “Yun Jie Jie, I know that in his majesty’s heart, no matter what I do, I will never surpass you. However, I have been trained from young to get along well with the other sisters in the harem. As long as Yun Jie Jie treats me well, I will treat Yun Jie Jie well too, not adding on to his majesty’s troubles. Yun Jie Jie needn’t worry about the future.” The hidden meaning behind her words was, if she dared to cross the line, Xiao Mei wouldn’t go easy on her.
Yun Ge pressed on, unconcerned “Xiao Mei, does his majesty treat you well?”
Although Xiao Mei did feel a little angry, more than that, she felt embarrassment and happiness, like a fourteen or fifteen year old young woman in the bloom of her first love. Her fingers played with the sash around her waist as she bowed her head and smiled.
After a long while, she said softly “His majesty treats Yun Jie Jie even better.” Xiao Mei couldn’t understand “Yun Jie Jie, what are you thinking of? Are you still afraid I will snatch his majesty away?” Yun Ge smiled “No, he was yours in the first place. I was the one at fault.” So be it! Wasn’t her original plan to match him with Xiao Mei? But…..why did her heart hurt so? “I never intended to be the only one claiming favour in the palace; his majesty belongs to us, as well as to all the people under the heavens. It just isn’t a convenient time for his majesty to confer the title of concubine on you yet. After out consummation ritual, his majesty will definitely hasten to confer a title on you, and I too will help you, you needn’t worry about Huo Guang objecting.” Xiao Mei’s face was full of shyness as she picked up a few accessories to show Yun Ge “Yun Jie Jie, help me take a look at these, what accessories should I wear today?” “He has you in his heart, so no matter what you wear; it will be beautiful to him.” Yun Ge bobbed a curtsy at Xiao Mei, then turned and left.
Yun Ge sat alone at the riverside, quietly staring at the lotus flowers that stretched towards the horizon. The official Astronomer said today was an auspicious day. Today was Liu Fu Ling’s and Shang Guan Xiao Mei’s auspicious day, but it wasn’t hers.
The sound of glad tidings could be heard from afar. Yun Ge stretched out to pick a lotus leaf, tore it apart bit by bit, then slowly put it in her mouth and chewed. A sweet scent from the lotus leaf should have burst into her mouth, but everything was bitter. I shall accompany you? I shall accompany you! The words from the past still rang loud and clear. He only forgot to say that he would hold someone else’s hand to accompany her. But her boat was too small, and couldn’t sit a party of three. Yun Ge shouted towards the whole pond full of lotus leaves and flowers “You heard what he said that day too right? Yes or no?”
The flowers were silent, the moonlight lonely.
Looking at the time now, the auspicious hour would be anytime soon. Yun Ge was about to throw away all the remaining uneaten leaves when her heart contracted in pain, and so she retracted her hand and carefully placed the leaves in her bag.
She rose to walk towards Xuan Shi Hall and Jiao Fang Hall, she must witness all the proceedings clearly. Now that their promise of ten years has been reduced to ashes, she must extinguish all the sparks from the ashes. The hall was completely filled with dragon phoenix candles as wide as an arm and a colourful picture embroidered with peacock feathers showed the dragon and phoenix soaring together.
Silken gold was used as thread and carved jade as decoration, the big red ‘Xi’ palace lanterns were hung from Xuan Shi Hall to Jiao Fang Hall, fiery red carpet was laid out on the floor; red lanterns hung in the sky, everywhere was covered in red. From afar, it looked tacky, but upon a closer look, one could truly feel the overwhelming sense of happiness the tacky decorations exuded. The proclaimer proclaimed “The auspicious hour is here.”
The instruments played as one, the voices of those singing were deafening.
Liu Fu Ling had a red sash across his waist, and was clad in a red robe. He slowly walked out from Xuan Shi Hall and walked along the red carpet towards Jiao Fang Hall. Suddenly, he stopped. Only to see a glimpse of green skirts softly billowing in the wind not far away. The only bit of green among all that red, stood out so much it caught his eye. She was in the dark, he was in the light. He couldn’t see her clearly, but each action of his would be seen by her.
With his majesty standing there unmoving, the proclaimer became flustered but didn’t dare to rush the Emperor, so he only bade the musicians to play even louder with a wave of his hand. With the music pushing him on, Liu Fu Ling walked step by step towards Jiao Fang Hall with a slight smile on his face.
One stretch of red carpet, felt like an entire lifetime. Yet no matter how slowly he walked, he still ended up in front of Jiao Fang Hall. The doors slowly opened, Shang Guan Xiao Mei wore a red phoenix cape, and sat prettily on the phoenix pallet.
An old palace maid threw large handfuls of grass stalks, bran, melon seeds, peanuts, walnuts, chestnuts at Xiao Mei’s feet, and read out auspicious phrases loudly as she did so. Liu Fu Ling stepped across all those auspicious fruits that represented many children and sat by Xiao Mei’s side.
The official of rites presented the wedding wine; Liu Fu Ling and Xiao Mei side by side, with their arms across each other, raised their cups and drank it together. Before he could finish the wine in his cup, the green skirts in the pavilion suddenly fluttered in the wind, then disappeared from view. Liu Fu Ling’s hand shook, and all his remaining wine splashed onto Xiao Mei’s sleeves. Shang Guan Xiao Mei shivered, then silently finished her cup of wine.
Step by step, Yun Ge walked away. Behind her, the red doors of Jiao Fang Hall slowly closed behind her; in front of her stood darkness, the rest of her life splayed out in front of her, without any ray of hope. The red, celebrations, drum music, all disappeared; only the silence of the night cloaked her.
When she was out of Wei Yang Palace, she stood on the palace bridge, Yun Ge stopped. In front of her was the path to leave Chang An, behind her, was the majestic Han palace. With a strong tear, Yun Ge suddenly tore the embroidered shoe she was holding apart, the pearl on top falling soundlessly into the water below. With the two parts of the shoe in her hands, she stretched them out, tipped them and they fell from her hands, swept along by the river.
Yun Ge didn’t turn back anymore, and walked right out of Chang An.
Not long after she walked out of the city gates, Meng Jue came with horses “Yun Ge.” Yun Ge looked coldly at him, and brushed past his side. Meng Jue led a horse and quietly walked by her side. After a long while, Yun Ge stared into the darkness and finally spoke “What did you come here for?”
“To send you off.”
Yun Ge stopped talking. A small pavilion after one large, Meng Jue walked by her, stretch after stretch of road. They were already well out of Chang An, but he showed no intention to go back. Yun Ge said “Go home! I’m on my way home, I won’t get lost.” Meng Jue didn’t say anything, continuing to walked by her.
Yun Ge sighed, then pointed to the road that led out to the horizon “Are you going to accompany me all the way?”, then pointed to Chang An city behind her “Could you bear to leave that behind?” Meng Jue thought for a while, then stopped. “Pass my regards to your Third Brother when you see him.”
Surprised, Yun Ge asked “You know my Third Brother?”, then almost as quickly scoffed “’If you wish to accomplish your task fully, you must first gather the right weapons.’ You really covered all bases on this one! I think you might know more about my family than I do. I’m still mulling over why my father and mother left Han, do you know the reason why? Tell me.” “I did ask around, but my search reached a dead end every time. Liu Che was ruthless and cruel, during the Crown Prince Ju rebellion, tens of thousands of people died in Chang An, so not many know the old matters. Even those that know have become beings hidden in the shadows, leaving no trace.” Yun Ge laughed mockingly “So there are things that Mister Meng can’t do either.”
Meng Jue’s smile held bitterness “Yun Ge, in this world, not everyone can be like you, growing up peacefully and contentedly. Each time I walk one step, if I’m not careful, the result would not be me veering unto the wrong path, but death. And not everything can be judged clearly as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, more often than not, most people are walking along that thin line of right and wrong, like how I treated Huo Cheng Jun, how Liu Fu Ling is treating Shang Guan Xiao Mei. We can only make a choice facing reality head on.” Yun Ge hit herself hard on the head “We met in Chang An, and will part in Chang An. From now on, you are you, and I am me. What is the point of me getting entangled into such matters with you?” Meng Jue smiled and gazed at Yun Ge. “Yun Ge, everything I planned in Chang An wasn’t to ‘meet’ you but to ‘reunite’ with you. As for our entanglement, it had already started years ago; it’s ending?” Meng Jue’s voice was tender but resolute “Never.” Yun Ge was stunned “Reunite?”
Meng Jue passed the reins in his hands to Yun Ge “Rest well at home, I’ll give you a period of time to lick your wounds. Once I’m done settling matters here, and have a residence of my own, I will go fetch you.” “Meng Jue, speak clearly. Are you plotting something?”
Meng Jue said lightly “You just found out that the perfect man of your dreams was only a mere mortal like any other man; you definitely wouldn’t be in the mood to listen to a long story of growing up. In the future, I will tell you everything bit by bit, you can’t escape from it.” The pain she was trying to ignore reared its head, and Yun Ge doubled over in pain. She only managed to stand firm after holding her breath. She tiredly replied “You and him are different people. Meng Jue, I won’t see you again.” She held the horse's reins. “Thanks for your horse.” Meng Jue said coldly “You only think we’re different, but he is not different from me at all.”
All of Yun Ge’s strength was already spent on suppressing the pain in her heart and couldn’t muster the strength to speak any more. She gripped the saddle tightly and jumped onto the horse, flying off into the night like an arrow.
Meng Jue stared at the green person on the horse.
This time, she didn’t even turn back! The memory of a small green child, hurriedly chasing after her brother yet not forgetting to kindly remind him to see a doctor while turning back repeatedly, flashed across his mind.
When the horse started to gallop, all pent up tears started to fall fiercely. So their meeting in the desert was only to end like this in a final farewell. Why didn’t she listen to her parents? Why did she come to Chang An?
If she didn’t come to Chang An, everything would forever remain stopped at their meeting under the stars, and Ling Ge ge would forever live in her heart. She stubbornly said ‘You and him are different’ to Meng Jue, but in her heart, she understood that Liu Fu Ling wasn’t all that different from Meng Jue. She merely didn’t have the courage to look at her injuries properly. Every road, every patch of forest was all familiar. Liu Fu Ling had often brought her out on this road out of Chang An. As she looked towards Lishan, each memory spent there surfaced in her mind. The more she tried to tell herself not to think about them, the more she thought.
Yun Ge abruptly reined the horse in. her chest heaved and her thoughts whirled urgently. She quickly turned the horse back, and galloped back into Chang An.
No! Ling Ge Ge was not like Meng Jue. The confusion in her heart settled, and all the doubt surfaced.
That day in Lishan, she tried to run away but Ling Ge Ge was already outside waiting for her. Yet this time, from beginning to the end, Ling Ge Ge never even tried to hold her back. When Huo Cheng Jun presented her dance, Ling Ge Ge specially ordered someone to head into Xuan Shi Hall to fetch his flute, then discussed how to counter Huo Guang with her later. Yet thiss time, Ling Ge Ge didn’t tell her anything. Unless Ling Ge Ge already felt nothing for her, but this was impossible, for even Ling Ge Ge himself didn’t dare to deny this either. What was most important was that Ling Ge Ge was definitely different compared to Meng Jue, Liu Bing Yi and Liu He. Yun Ge really wanted to give herself a tight slap, how could she have believed Ling Ge Ge’s words?
Meng Jue heard the sound of horse hoofs behind him, and thought it was a pedestrian, and moved to the roadside to give way. Yun Ge flew across him, and he called out in surprise, “Yun Ge?”
Yun Ge didn’t decrease her speed, only turning back to shout “He is different from all of you, and I’m the world’s greatest idiot!”
After racing back to the palace gates, she wondered how she could get in. This blasted place, it truly was hard getting out, even tougher getting in! Two eunuchs morphed out of the darkness and asked with surprise “Hadn’t missy already left?”
Yun Ge said “I’ve come back again. Are you disappointed, or happy about that? Quick, help me think of a method to get in, or I will peel Yu An’s skin off his back.” The two eunuchs hurriedly brought Yun Ge into the palace, whispering “My dear missy, we have already reported to Yu An that you had already left Chang An; now that you’ve appeared again out of nowhere, if Supervisor Yu admonishes us….” “I will talk to Yu An about this, he has to first worry about his own life, so he’s not going to have time to worry about yours.”
The big red lanterns still hung gaily in the air, and joyfulness lingered in the air as well. Yet it was pitch black in the hall. When Yu An saw Yun Ge, his eyes almost crossed, his expression was odd, either happy or troubled she couldn’t tell. Yun Ge glared fiercely at him, then asked softly “Why isn’t Supervisor Yu serving in Jiao Fang Hall?” Yu An stubbornly said “His majesty has consummated his marriage with his wife, there is no need for me to be there.” Yun Ge scoffed “I’ll settle my score with you when I get back!” As she spoke, she headed towards his sleeping chamber, but Yu An held her back. Yun Ge’s eyes were spitting fire, how dare you stop me? Don’t think I don’t have methods to get rid of you!
“His majesty isn’t in his sleeping chamber.” Yu An pointed to the adjoining hall where Yun Ge lived in. Tears immediately welled up in her eyes.
In the dark, one person quietly lay on Yun Ge’s pallet, his head resting on Yun Ge’s pillow, his hand holding a round fan that Yun Ge often used. It was obvious that he wasn’t sleeping; though Yun Ge pushed the door open softly, he was already alerted to the noise.
“Get out!” His voice was hoarse, and tired. The footsteps didn’t stop. As Liu Fu Ling frowned and stared the approaching figure, the fan fell from his hands. Yun Ge knelt by the pallet, picked up the fan and started to fan him “You’re not at Jiao Fang Hall holding the beauty in your embrace, but here playing with a fan?” “You….you shouldn’t have come back.” “This time, even if you stab me with a sword and dig my heart out, crushing it into pieces, I will not leave. You can stop thinking of ideas now.” Liu Fu Ling didn’t say anything. After a while, his trembling hands reached for her face. Yun Ge tilted her head and bit his hand hard, the tears from her eyes landing on his hand. Liu Fu Ling didn’t move, letting Yun Ge vent her frustrations. Yun Ge tasted blood in her hand, and quickly let go.
His palm already bore the marks of her teeth. Her heart ached and she hurriedly used her hands to rub at the marks, “Don’t you know how to tell people you’re in pain?” Liu Fu Ling wrapped his fingers around her hair “Are you still hurting?” Yun Ge nodded, then shook her head, and curled up by his arm like a little cat. “During this period of time, watching me suffer every day, did your heart ever ache for me?” Liu Fu Ling’s fingers were still playing with her hair “My heart has long been exchanged for yours.” Yun Ge couldn’t help herself, she lightly punched him a few times “You were hurting too but you were still so cruel?” Liu Fu Ling released a soft sigh.
“Ling Ge Ge, what are you trying to hide from me? Why must you force me away? Anyway now that I’ve resolved not to leave, you can’t hide it anymore, so tell me!” His hand was still playing with her hair, when he heard her words, he stiffened and tried to pull his hand away, but her hair was tangled in his fingers, so his hand couldn’t leave, and caused her pain instead.
Yun Ge angrily grabbed hold of his hand and wrapped her hair tightly around his five fingers “Let go! Leave! We’ll go head to head against each other and see who’s more stubborn!” Liu Fu Ling looked at his ‘black’ hand. This entanglement was what he had wished for, what should have been tendrils of happiness now only caused him deep, searing pain. Yun Ge’s head lay on his hand, her voice pleading “Ling Ge Ge, tell me. There is nothing that can’t be solved in this world, you’re so smart and I’m not stupid either, both of us can surely think of a way to overcome this. Ling Ge Ge, Ling Ge Ge….” She just continued calling his name, soft but determined. If he wasn’t going to tell the truth, she would continue to call his name.
Liu Fu Ling closed his eyes. After a long while, he said lightly “I’m sick.” Yun Ge froze. When the true meaning of his words came crashing down, she felt like something was pressing heavily against her chest, she just couldn’t get rid of it, she grew dizzy, like the whole world was turning. She didn’t have to ask whether it was serious or what the physicians said. Everything that had happened already told her all she needed to know.
Nothing that can’t be solved in this world? Yun Ge saw the roaring water coming towards her from all directions, but not the strength to fight them, so she could only watch herself drown helplessly.
She quietly leaned against Liu Fu Ling, closer and closer, till she was tightly plastered against him. She reached out to embrace him tightly, her ear at his chest, listening to his heartbeat. Liu Fu Ling stiffened but showed no other reaction. Yun Ge started to shiver.
Liu Fu Ling finally reached out to hold Yun Ge, holding her tighter, with all the strength he had, as if as long as they both used their strength, they could be together forever, till their hair turned white. Yun Ge’s tears fell quietly, to the beat of his heart.
The cold, crescent moon outside threw silent light into the pitch black Xuan Shi Palace. The jade steps turned white under the light, like they were covered in snow.
At the Marquis of Yangwu’s residence.
Meng Jue stood in front of the window with his hand behind him, staring at the crescent moon outside. The moonlight against the glass roof was the cold light of jade. Since entering, Meng Jue had been standing in front of the window, wordlessly, looking strangely at peace, neither happy or angry.
Liu Xun and Liu He knew something was on his mind, but didn’t have the time or energy to dig deeper. Since the year started, his majesty had been pushing them to their limits, asking for their opinions whether the matter was big or small, even adding on the sentence “I will leave this matter to my beloved minister to settle.”
His majesty had made several big changes recently too, appointing and dismissing officials, transferring generals, they were all either important or significant positions, and each time he had to go head to head with Huo Guang.
Although they both of them were extremely clever and had also been keeping a close eye on the matters at court, but looking is one thing, doing is another. Only when they tried to do it themselves did they realize the difficulty of the situation. Many times, even if they had good ideas, but the implementations were often fraught with things they couldn’t control; because an idea can be birthed by one person, but the implementation was definitely not by one person’s might. They had to rely on the cooperation of different levels and ranks of officials.
Thank goodness Meng Jue was on hand to help. Of the trio, with Liu Bing Yi and Meng Jue in the open, and Liu He helping in secret, each of them having each other’s backs, they managed to smoothly navigate through small and big crises.
Meng Jue remained standing there for a long time, but didn’t have the mood to listen in on Liu Xun’s and Liu He’s conversation, so he decided to leave “If there isn’t any other matter, I will leave first.” Liu He quickly said “I’ll walk with you.” Liu Xun smiled at Liu He, saying “Your nephew won’t be sending uncle then.”
Liu He dragged Meng Jue up the carriage. Meng Jue asked “Where are you going? Luo Yu House ? Or Tian Fang House? You and I aren’t heading the same way.” Liu He sighed, then shook his head “Third Brother, his majesty entrusted yet another mission to me.” “It must not be easy since it made you sigh.” “His majesty said, Chancellor Tian Qian Qiu bows and submits to Huo Guang; he is displeased with this chancellor and asked me to think of a plan.” Meng Jue smiled “The Chancellor’s job is to lead the civil officials. Although since the late Emperor’s reign, the position of Grand Marshal has been diminishing the presence of the Chancellor, in terms of the implementation and announcement of court laws, it is still a vital position. Tian Qian Qiu has served two Emperors, so it wouldn’t be easy to handle him, it is going to be even harder handling Huo Guang, so you can trouble over this matter as slowly as you wish!” “If Tian Qian Qiu was easy to handle, his majesty would have dealt with him a long time ago. The way I see it, his majesty seems determined to use me until my limbs fall apart and I die before he would let me go.”
Liu He sighed, “His majesty forbade me from discussing this matter with anyone else; if not if the three of us put our heads together, we might come up with something.” “Have you told Liu Xun?” “His majesty forbade me to, so of course I didn’t.” Liu He replied loyally, as if he forgot that his majesty had also forbidden him to tell Meng Jue. Meng Jue smiled “Liu Xun looked like he was troubled today too.”
Liu He looked at Meng Jue’s smile and felt his arms grow cold. “What is his majesty trying to do? What do you think his majesty bade Liu Xun to do?” Meng Jue’s expression darkened. “Since you, a Liu, can’t figure it out, what makes you think I can? I only feel that since the beginning of the year, every action his majesty has done seemed like he was moving his pieces into place, but I just can’t see what the overall picture looks like.” Liu He shook his head as he mulled over it “You’re not the only one that can’t understand this; I bet Huo Guang has been confused because of this too. That’s why he can only defend his power right now, carefully observing his majesty’s movements. Not only in court, but the harem has been a mystery as well. His majesty has always refused to consummate his relationship with the Empress, then there was Yun Ge, then suddenly he’s all good with her majesty again. Ah! Right, I forgot to ask, when do you plan to head to Xi Yu to propose marriage? I want to tag along…”
Meng Jue blandly said “Yun Ge is still in the palace.” “What?” Liu He froze for a moment then muttered to himself “I really don’t understand this at all. Huo Cheng Jun and you merely exchanged a few flirtatious glances, and shared a few embraces, then Yun Ge had already resolved to leave; now that Liu Fu Ling and Shang Guan Xiao Mei have both consummated their relationship, Yun Ge is still remaining in the palace?”
Meng Jue looked outside “Yun Ge and I, wasn’t purely because of Huo Cheng Jun. Settle your own problems, I will do so with my own.” Liu He reverted back to being listless again “The Tian Qian Qiu issue, what is the quickest, most suitable method you have?” Meng Jue spoke lightly, as if commenting on the weather “A dead man naturally can’t be a Chancellor.”
Liu He was familiar with Meng Jue’s method of dealing with issues, but when he heard those words; his expression still changed “The Chancellor is the leader of the hundred officials. Even the ruthless late Emperor couldn’t kill off his Chancellor easily; he had to go through trial by three judicial systems.” The horse carriage had already reached Meng Jue’s residence. Meng Jue lifted the curtains to get off. “I was only suggesting a method, how to deal with it is up to you.”
The driver directed the carriage to Luo Yu House. Liu He lay within the carriage, and closed his eyes to think.
The words Liu Fu Ling spoke flashed across his mind. “This matter is of utmost importance, you must do your best to settle this. After this is settled, I will agree to whatever you may wish for.” “There is no need to request for permission, or to report back to me. Act as you see fit. I only want to see results in the shortest time possible.” “I only care about the end; I don’t care about the means.” The taste of power- once a taste had been taken, there is no way of forgetting that taste.
Although he had toiled hard during this period of time, instead of tiredness, more of what he felt was elation, excitement, and the pleasure of being able to show off his talents. His life didn’t just consist of playing and hunting any more, his opponents were no longer wild, untamed beasts but the smartest people of Han. As a strong party, he enjoyed the excitement a flash of a knife would bring. Facing the threat of the borders, although he couldn’t personally lead troops out into war, but he could come up with plans to diminish their threat, protecting Han soil in the process. The fate of others was in his hands, not only that, but also the fate of other countries. His decisions could affect the way life, the rise or the fall of this dynasty. Transparent laws, upright officials, stable borders, safe commoners could all be achieved through his hands. This was the draw of power!
Some people might like power because of riches and honour, but to him, power had nothing to do with riches and honour, it was a tool for a man to fulfil his ambitions and dreams! Pursuing power is just a way to pursue life to its fullest!
Liu He opened his eyes and called his loyal servant outside the carriage in, telling him “Go dig up all that you can on Tian Qian Qiu’s relatives, see what they have been doing recently, especially his few sons, I want to know everything, even what they are eating.”
His servant replied “Yes”, jumped off the carriage and left hurriedly.
Yun Ge remained in a silent embrace with Liu Fu Ling, both not truly sleeping. Yun Ge had heard the phrase ‘white hair in a night’ but thought it was pure exaggeration. It wasn’t until now did she truly understand the meaning of it. It turned out that yes, people could turn old overnight. When he heard the drum clanging the time, Liu Fu Ling said “I need to get up, you sleep a little longer.” Yun Ge sat up and said softly “Let me help you with your cleaning and dressing.” Liu Fu Ling thought for a while, then nodded. Yun Ge quickly brushed her hair, and took the Imperial robe from Yu An’s hand, to help Liu Fu Ling put it on.
As the Imperial robe’s design was different from a normal robe, there were some places Yun Ge had no idea how to tie, so Liu Fu Ling had no choice but to do it himself. After a long delay, Yun Ge finally managed to dress him tidily.
Yun Ge walked a few steps away to admire her handiwork, and nodded, satisfied. “Yu An, what do you think?” Yu An smiled “Missy dressed his majesty really well; his majesty looks even more handsome than usual.” Liu Fu Ling smiled as he rebuked him “Quick, go prepare the things needed for me to wash up.” Usually, Liu Fu Ling did his washing up by himself, without the assistance of eunuchs or palace maids. This was the first time someone was serving him, and the person serving him was someone who had no idea how to serve someone at that. Finally, his face was washed, and his mouth cleaned, but the robe he was wearing was always wet, and the position of the wet patch was little awkward.
Yu An hurriedly took another set of robes for Liu Fu Ling to change into. Yun Ge was kicking up a fuss in her corner “I forbid you to change, I helped you wear that!” Liu Fu Ling ignored her, undressing nimbly. When she realized her resistance was ineffective, Yun Ge grumbled “I’ll help you with that”, grabbing part of the robe, determined to help him. Liu Fu Ling held her wriggling hands, and said helplessly “My dear miss Yun, please go rest for a while, I’ll do this myself. There is a whole court full of officials waiting for me! Once I’m back from court, I’ll undress so that you can help me with it again, alright?” Yun Ge shook her head, pouted, then said half teasingly, “No way. Do you only have the Han society in your heart? What about me?” “I…. Yun Ge, you know that isn’t true. There are some things that are my responsibility, I must fulfil them.”
Yun Ge sidled up to Liu Fu Ling and pointed at her cheeks. Liu Fu Ling didn’t move. “Then I can only ‘seriously’ help you dress.” Yun Ge reached for the Imperial robe. Liu Fu Ling pressed a swift kiss on Yun Ge’s cheek. Yu An and Mo Cha both lowered their eyes and studiously examined their feet. Although a rosy blush had creeped onto her cheeks, she still smiled happily at Liu Fu Ling. Suddenly, she asked “Ling Ge Ge, why is your face red?” Yu An and Mo Cha almost stumbled and fell to the ground. Mo Cha furtively tried to look up, wanting to know if the perpetually cold and calm Emperor could feel embarrassment too.
After Liu Fu Ling was done with his dressing, he hit Yun Ge soundly on her head, then walked out without a word. Yun Ge rubbed her throbbing head, and called out “Someone has turned embarrassment into anger.”
Yu An, trailing behind Liu Fu Ling, took note of his majesty’s lighter steps, and broke into a smile for the first time these days. Then just as suddenly, heaved a long sigh.
Once Liu Fu Ling was out of sight, Yun Ge’s smile faded altogether. She told Mo Cha “Bring Qi Xi over.” Qi Xi came in to bow, pay his respects; Yun Ge shot Mo Cha an apologetic look. Mo Cha immediately retreated to stand guard outside. Yun Ge asked Qi Xi “I didn’t have the chance to speak privately with Yu An, how much do you know? How much can you tell me?” Qi Xi replied “Your servant is not very sure, but had summoned Physician Zhang, who will be here soon. Teacher said once he was done settling matters at the main hall, he will hurry back.”
A moment later, Yu An came back. After a few moments, Physician Zhang arrived. Yun Ge bade Physician Zhang to sit “Physician, I have a few questions for you.” Physician Zhang knew Yun Ge’s temperament, so he didn’t defer and just sat “Missy needn’t be polite, just ask.” “How exactly is his majesty’s illness? Please tell the truth, no need to shy away from it.” Physician Zhang’s expression turned serious, with a tinge of embarrassment “Till now, your subject still doesn’t know what illness it is.” “Physician, could you share the exact cause?” Beneath her calm was heavy sadness. Actually, she had already guessed it; if his illness wasn’t serious, Ling Ge Ge wouldn’t have tried to force her away; but hearing it for herself still hurt.
“On the surface, his majesty’s internal symptom is his depressed spirits, causing his organs to be damaged in the process. His liver’s function is lower than usual, spleen is weak, his heart and lungs display yin-yang imbalance, leading to his heart opening to be blocked; his external symptoms present themselves as tightness in the chest, swollen and painful ribs. In serious cases, lack of blood to brain, dizziness and ringing in the ears, extreme chest pain, cramping of the limps will occur.” Yun Ge had flipped through a few medical journals because of Meng Jue’s illness and understood a little bit of medical jargon, so she understood Physician Zhang’s words.
She thought of Ling Ge Ge ascending the throne at eight, the late Emperor was afraid Lady Gouyi would abuse her power when she became Empress Dowager, so when he passed the throne to Ling Ge Ge, he ordered the death of Lady Gouyi. The dragon seat on Jin Luan Hall was exchanged with the blood of his mother. The Han dynasty the late Emperor left behind had empty coffers, frequent rebellions, the threat of the borders, and Ling Ge Ge still had to live under the constant intimidation of his powerful subjects. From eight till now, what kind of life was he living?
Yun Ge temped her heartache down “Depressed spirits and his heart opening blocked, although they are serious, but they aren’t impossible to treat. His majesty is in his prime, as long as he remains calm and happy, his blood will flow, coupled with medicine and acupuncture, this would bring balance slowly back into his body.”
Physician Zhang was slightly surprised “Missy’s words aren’t wrong. His majesty’s constitution was always very good, and he is in his prime, even if he fell sick, as long as proper treatment is administered, he should recover. Yet, this is what troubles me. According to his symptoms, my first diagnosis was thoracic obstruction, and used my late father’s acupuncture method to help his majesty use ‘three yang meridians to treat wind’ ‘to open his heart opening, smoothing the meridians’, but….” Physician Zhang shook his head, confused. “His majesty’s symptoms didn’t show any signs of improvement, but his pains only got more intense. This is the first I’ve seen or heard of such a strange phenomenon in my ten years of practicing medicine.”
Yun Ge asked “Will his majesty’s pains get more intense?” Physician Zhang hesitated “According to the trend right now, his majesty’s pains are increasing in intensity by day, once all his pains concentrate on his heart vessel, when it flares up, his chest will hurt immensely. When it gets more serious, he could go into a coma, but once his majesty enters a coma, it would be possible….it would be possible…that he’ll never wake up.”
Tears blurred her vision, as Yun Ge stared dumbly at Physician Zhang. Yu An turned to Physician Zhang “Your servant will order Fu Yu to send Physician out of the palace. If anyone asks why Physician was in Xuan Shi Hall, just say it was to treat Yun Ge’s old illness. As for his majesty’s illness, please do try to spend more effort on it.” Physician Zhang said “Supervisor, rest assured, I know how important this matter is, and would never leak a word of it anywhere else. However, if a few more physicians could be gathered to diagnose his majesty’s illness, maybe a conclusion could be reached sooner, and would be a good solution to this illness.”
Yu An nodded “Your servant understands, this matter would still have to go through his majesty’s approval.” Physician Zhang knew that matters at court were not things he could comprehend, so he left it at that and moved to leave. Yu An saw Yun Ge’s devastated face, and heaved a silent sigh, “Miss Yun, your servant will need to return to serve in the main hall, have you got any orders?” Yun Ge thought for a moment “If it isn’t convenient to summon imperial physicians, could you find a way to consult those highly skilled physicians living amongst commoners?” Yu An answered immediately “Your servant has already sent someone to find out.” Yun Ge nodded silently. Yu An bowed and took his leave “Your servant will be going to the main hall. After court is adjourned, his majesty still needs to be served.”
After coming back from court, Liu Fu Ling would usually head to Qing Liang Hall to read and comment on missives and settle court matters. Today though, he headed back to Xuan Shi Hall after court “Yu An, go bring the missives and official documents from Qing Liang Hall to Xuan Shi Hall. From today on, besides meeting with officials at court, I will settle the rest of my official matters here at Xuan Shi Hall.”
Yu An answered “Yes”.
When Yun Ge saw Liu Fu Ling, she was surprised and happy “Why are you back so early today?” Upon seeing a group of eunuchs moving and carrying bamboo scrolls and scrolls, Yun Ge understood, and sadness filled her heart. Liu Fu Ling smiled “I will always be back this early from today onwards.”
Once everything had been installed, Yu An and the rest left quietly. Liu Fu Ling held Yun Ge’s hand, leading her to sit beside him in front of his table, and passed her a scroll “You read quietly.” Opening his missive, he said “I’ll work earnestly.”
Yun Ge looked at the book in her hand, it talked of the Xiongnu’s way of eating and cooking. Liu Fu ling knew she aspired to be like Sima Qian, to write a book about food, so he ordered others to help her gather books on how each country cooked and arranged their food, they were arranged into volumes according to geography. Although the motive was selfish, but this move unwittingly sped up interactions between Han and the borders. There were many simple Han food preparation method that slowly spread to the borders, leading to the borders respect of Han, and there were many commoners who were more willing to accept the practices of Central Plains.
As Yun Ge flipped through her book, she wasn’t reading a single word, but she liked this feeling, of them both together. She secretly glanced at Liu Fu Ling, deep in concentration, writing, then moved her gaze back to her book. A moment later, her eyes couldn’t help but move again to her side.
Liu Fu Ling’s writing speed got slower and slower, then finally stopped. He sighed, still holding his brush “Yun Ge, what are you looking at?” “Looking at you” Yun Ge answered directly. He didn’t even look up as he straightened her head. “Read your book properly.” A while later, her head turned again subconsciously. He reached to straighten her head again. It turned again not long later.
He helplessly set his pen aside, then looked at Yun Ge. “Yun Ge, if you keep creating trouble, I will chase you out.” Yun Ge was offended “Since when am I causing trouble? I was just sitting her quietly, not even saying a word, nor fidgeting. You’re the one constantly pushing my head, you’re the one causing trouble.”
Liu Fu Ling passed a missive to Yun Ge. “Help me read that.” Yun Ge reminded him “The one you’re holding hasn’t been commented on yet.”
“I can do two things at a time. Read!”
Yun Ge read, one word at a time, slowly going through the missive “Quoting ’Classics of Poetry’: ‘Sadness and depression is like a serious illness’, this was used to describe King Cheng of Zhou who mourned and respected his ancestors, his depression hard to cure. This was why he could succeed the great deeds King Wen of Zhou, King Wu of Zhou, and add on to their illustrious works. My teacher said thus ‘When a man and woman get married, this is when life begins, the source of endless happiness. The marriage ceremony with proper etiquette, then success will follow according to the will of Heaven.’”
“Yun Ge, you can read faster, I can understand.” Liu Fu Ling spoke as he wrote.
Yun Ge read according to her normal speed. “”Confucius reasoned, ‘Classics of Poetry’ started with ‘Fishhawk” because marriage is the star of the system, the origins of etiquette. From history past, the rise and fall of Xia, Shang and Zhou was closely tied to this. I wish your majesty would study the success and failure, rise and fall of these dynasties, so as to strengthen the foundations of the present. Align yourself with virtuous women, stay away from decadent sounds of beauty, stay near to those serious and respectful, and avoid scheming, plotting women. I have heard, the Confucian ‘Six Classics’ is what the sages used to unite the people, drawing a clear line between good and evil, clearly defining what is auspicious and disaster, showing the correct way to being human, so that we might not betray our innate beings. Also, ‘The Analects’ and ‘Classic of Filial Piety’ are the records of the sage’s words, and a deeper study should be conducted. I have also heard, a wise Emperor should, no matter the situation, always carry the mandate of Heaven, settle official matters, deal with officials with respect, so as to display the virtuousness one should have. Please be careful, for this is the face carrying the mandate of Heaven. To show respect, fidelity and meticulousness, should be the way, carrying on ancestor’s tradition. Be strict with oneself, upright and meticulous, this is the principle all hundred officials live by. Bestowing grace and favour, all calm and happy, is the attitude to treat one’s subject. By actions and moves, everything must be in accordance to etiquette, and in turn, this will display your majesty’s righteousness and goodness, each and every action could become a lawful example. The first day of the year, your majesty descended upon the hall, received the congratulations of the hundred officials, set up a banquet and rewarded the borders. According to the Classics, they say ‘A gentleman starts by being meticulous’, your subject suggests your majesty pay attention to etiquette in action, so that your subjects will be able to look upon the glorious virtue displayed, strengthening the foundations of this country, that everyone under the Heavens may prosper.” It is signed off as metropolitan magistrate, Juan Bu Yi.”
Although she read with unconcern, but Yun Ge was still slightly disappointed. In the eyes of these officials, she was a debauched ‘evil concubine’ messing with the Emperor’s mind.
Liu Fu Ling finished commenting on the missive in his hand, took the one from hers’, glanced across the name before writing swiftly, carelessly, his words angry “I accept your suggestion!”, then flung the missive aside.
When he saw Yun Ge still staring dumbly at the missive, Liu Fu Ling said “Juan Bu Yi wasn’t talking about you.”
Yun Ge smiled “An evil concubine then an evil concubine it shall be! Only beauties can be worthy of this title, and only women who completely enraptured the Emperor will be called ‘evil concubines’. If I have both, how is this a bad thing?”
Liu Fu Ling said “In order not to offend Huo Guang, this missive tells me clearly not to lust for the women by my side, the hidden meaning behind it warns me to avoid the Empress with Huo blood running through her veins for the sake of this dynasty.”
Only then did Yun Ge truly feel relieved, and smiled “All you Emperors and subjects speak in riddles, it really is a waste of brain power!” Liu Fu Ling picked up two more missives, one for Yun Ge, one for himself. Doing two tasks at once, he finished with the missives in half the time.
It was already dark. Liu Fu Ling looked outside, then slowly said “Yun Ge, I’d like to discuss something with you.” Yun Ge smiled “You can go!” He looked apologetic, and held her hand “I will be back as soon as I can.” Yun Ge leaned into his arms “It’s fine. Since you are acting, you should do it so that it is believable, if not your effort would be wasted. If you continually go over but not stay over, that wouldn’t be believable.” At this point in time, Ling Ge Ge’s energy shouldn’t be wasted on trying to deal with Huo Guang.
Liu Fu Ling quietly held Yun Ge, only letting go after a long while. When he got up, he ordered Yu An to prepare a carriage to head to Jiao Fang Hall. At his words, Fu Yu and Mo Cha snuck looks at Yun Ge. They only saw Yun Ge lower her head, her expression unreadable.
 喜 the character for happy, usually hung during weddings to represent the happy event that is the joining of both people.
 Names of teahouses, dance houses etc.