sparkskey (sparkskey) wrote,

Yun Zhong Ge Chapter 35: The Albizia’s Tears

Late delay there, sorry about that. I'm heading back down under to graduate next week, so travel preparation and work are time suckers in general. I've got no time to polish up the text with chapter breaks, will do so tomorrow. So please bear with me as I edit and update this.


Yu An accompanied the Emperor, disguised in simple robes to consult the common physicians and also carefully picked a few trusted Imperial physicians to treat his majesty. Everyone who diagnosed his majesty was all extremely sure it was thoracic obstruction. Yet they each differed in their explanations as to why acupuncture and medication weren’t taking effect: some concluded that it was because of some other undiagnosed illness, diminishing the effectiveness of acupuncture; some concluded that it was because it was a type of heart ailment not found in medical books, so the treatment of their ancestors would thus naturally have no effect.

Physician Zhang privately suspected other reasons, but all the poisons that could lead to thoracic obstruction would have to be consumed through food, entering the organs, damaging the heart opening. Once the poison was circulated within the body, the victim dies immediately, but his majesty’s ailment was manifesting slowly. He had also meticulously gone through all of his majesty’s food but didn’t find anything suspicious. Furthermore, the most important point was, everything the Emperor ate would be tasted by eunuchs, none of the eunuchs showed signs of poisoning. Therefore Physician Zhang could only strike that thought out.

The common physicians weren’t aware of Liu Fu Ling’s identity, and therefore spoke without restraint. Everything they said only made Yun Ge’s heart drop further. Finally, she could only place all her hopes on Physician Zhang.

Liu Fu Ling welcomed Physician Zhang’s treatment; on the surface he looked calm as per normal, and Yun Ge also acted like before. Both of them buried their worries deeply within their hearts, as if all was really normal. But as Liu Fu Ling’s heart pains started to increase in intensity, even his strong powers of restraint weren’t even able to conceal it. Sometimes when his illness flared, it was so painful that his whole body would shake. The changes in his body served as reminders to Yun Ge and Liu Fu Ling, telling them: No, everything isn’t normal.

One night, while the two of them sat side by side, gazing upon the stars, Yun Ge softly said “Ling Ge Ge, I wish to ask someone to take a look at your illness, is that possible?” “Of course.” He had already seen the best physicians in Han, not only one, but many. Therefore, he didn’t harbor any high hopes, but if this would ease Yun Ge’s heart, everything would be worth it.

“Meng Jue once mentioned that his adoptive father possessed great medical skills, even if Bian Que was reborn, he still wouldn’t be a match for him. Meng Jue never doles out praise so simply, I’m afraid even Physician Zhang’s skills in his eyes would only be a ‘can do.’” Yun Ge’s voice became more nervous “So, I’d like to ask him, to see whether or not he could persuade his adoptive father to take a look at your illness. Imperial physicians may be good, but they definitely aren’t the best in the world. There was once the common physician Bian Que managed to identify what was ailing Duke Huan of Cai, pointing out symptoms that other physicians couldn’t see. The best physicians must lie within the commoners, for a true physician wouldn’t just look after the ailments of the imperial family, they would never be willing to use their skills to trade for promise of honour and riches.”

Liu Fu Ling’s heart thudded, it was indeed as Yun Ge said.

Medicine skills, were different as compared to all other skills on earth. Above all, physicians must have an empathetic heart for the people. Only if they thought lightly of fame and glory, setting their hearts on understanding the toils of men, would they then truly become worthy physicians. None of the Imperial physicians, not even Physician Zhang could do that; therefore, of all the famous physicians of yore, not one came from the palace, but all from the common people.

But Meng Jue….

Yun Ge noticed Liu Fu Ling deep in thought. She said “I know you can’t let any news of your illness be leaked, and Meng Jue…” Yun Ge frowned. “Ling Ge Ge, I don’t trust him either, which is why I have never considered him- I didn’t want to put you in a spot. But Ling Ge Ge, take it as I’m begging you now, even if it is because of me. I have never once resented you for the things you have done for the state, but this time could you just consider this once, me and you, and not consider the country?”

Yun Ge’s eyes glazed over with tears, Liu Fu Ling’s heart suddenly hurt greatly. His illness flared again, his hand pressed against his ribs, and cold sweat beaded on his forehead. Yun Ge was shocked, immediately going to support him. “Ling Ge Ge, Ling Ge Ge, I was wrong. I’m not going to force you, you can do whatever you wish….” Her heart was filled with sorrow but she didn’t dare to cry, for crying might only make his condition worse, so she could only suppress all her emotion, even as her eyes became red rimmed with unshed tears.

Only by holding Yun Ge’s hand was Liu Fu Ling able to forcibly stand firm. After a long while, the pain in his heart subsided. He said “Yun Ge, I promise you.” Yun Ge was so happy she hugged Liu Fu Ling. “Thank you, thank you, Ling Ge Ge!”

Seeing her like this, Liu Fu Ling felt only sadness. After some thought he added, “The Emperor already has the imperial physicians at his disposal, a privilege everyone else doesn’t have. Meng Jue’s adoptive father is hidden amongst the people, and might not be willing to treat the Emperor. Please tell him to tell his adoptive father, I’ll pay the price for treatment by reducing taxes by a tenth for three years. Based on his adoptive father’s character, I’m thinking he would accept this fee.”

Yun Ge nodded “Ling Ge Ge, rest assured. I will think of a way to make Meng Jue agree to keep this secret, so as to not add to your troubles.”

Liu Fu Ling’s smile held indifference. “Yun Ge, no need to trouble him, and above all, don’t trouble yourself. These things we can only do what we possibly can and leave the rest to the will of Heaven.”

Meng Jue just got off his carriage when the servant guarding his residence reported “My Lord, there was a lady who came to visit.” Meng Jue nodded coldly, indifferent. The servant added “Your servant heard Miss Nong Ying address her as Miss Yun.” Nong Ying was San Yue’s formal name, Meng Jue immediately asked “Where is she?” “In the study.”

Meng Jue couldn’t be bothered to change his court robes, sprinting straight towards the study. There was no one in the study, only San Yue in the courtyard sunning books.

He asked “Did Yun Ge come?” San Yue replied as she shook out the bamboo scroll in her hand “She came.” “Where is she?” “Gone.” Meng Jue hid his disappointment, only blandly asking “Why didn’t you try to make her stay? Did she say anything?”

San Yue smiled as she glanced at Meng Jue “Is master anxious?” When she caught his eye, she didn’t dare tease him anymore, quickly saying “Since Master was late in returning, I was afraid Yun Ge might leave out of boredom so I told her she could play in the gardens. She should be near the gardens.”

The trees formed a canopy hiding the sun, the leaves green and trunks sturdy. A small river meandered through the shrubbery. Although it was the height of summer, it was cool in the gardens. Meng Jue walked along the small path, searching as he walked. When he reached the greenhouse and spotted the door half open, he pushed it open. After passing several blooms of kumquats and a few shoots of bamboo, he saw Yun Ge lying on a fleeceflower vine, her head rest on an albizia tree as she slept soundly. The albizia flower was known to calm the organs, to take away all worries; while the fleeceflower vine was known to calm the senses, to treat anxiety and insomnia. As he often had nightmares at night, so he specially grew these two plants side by side, twining the fleeceflower vine into a bed, the curved tree as a pillow, using the effects of both to calm his mind and body.

Meng Jue lightly sat by the albizia tree, silently gazing at her. The albizia’s clean fragrance wafted across the air. The fleeceflower vines emitted a vague scent, but the person lying on the fleeceflower vine and albizia tree was neither calm nor happy, even as she slept her brows were still tightly knit.

In just a matter of two weeks, she lost an incredible amount of weight. Her chin was sharp, her collarbones protruded, the arm that hung beneath the fleeceflower stem was looked extremely fragile. Meng Jue held her wrist and measured it against his palm. She was already a whole ring tinier than last year.

Liu Fu Ling, is this how you care for the one you love?

After four hours, when sunset streamed into the greenhouse, Yun Ge woke up with a start. “Ling Ge Ge”, and grabbed hold of Meng Jue’s hand, as if she was terrified he’d disappear. When she saw who it was, she quickly let go, but Meng Jue refused to let her go.

Yun Ge explained as she tried to wrest her hand from his grasp “I’m sorry, I thought that the fleeceflower vines resembled a tiny pallet, so I sat on it, I don’t know why I even fell asleep.” “You haven’t been sleeping well at all these days, if you’re tired, naturally, you will sleep.”

Yun Ge felt extremely awkward, she was the one who came to find him, but ended up sleeping so soundly in his house, and it wasn’t even a short nap either. “How long have you been here?” Meng Jue lightly replied “I just got here.  Why are you looking for me?” Yun Ge’s eyes were full of despair “Meng Jue, let go of me, would you?” Meng Jue stared at her, not letting go “Tell me what is wrong.” Yun Ge didn’t have the energy to compete with Meng Jue to see who could be more stubborn, so she let him be.

She leaned against the alizia tree, and tried her best to remain calm. “His majesty is ill. It is a very strange illness, rendering even the best Imperial physician, Physician Zhang helpless. I was hoping you could ask your adoptive father to treat his majesty.”

“My adoptive father can’t come.” Yun Ge’s gaze was pleading. “His majesty is willing to lower the taxes for three years as a fee for treatment. Furthermore, his majesty isn’t a ruthless Emperor, he is a good Emperor, I believe your adoptive father would be willing to treat him.” Meng Jue wasn’t moved by her speech. “I said, it is impossible for my adoptive father to treat his majesty, even lowering taxes for the next decade wouldn’t help.” “You….” Yun Ge was so angry her face grew pale. “I’ll go home to find my daddy, doesn’t he know your adoptive father?” Meng Jue scoffed “Your father? Do you really believe your father can do everything? He and your mother have searched for my adoptive father for more than a decade, but still haven’t found him.”

Yun Ge was stunned, the anger in her heart turning into helpless despair. Her eyes filled with tears, each drop rolling down her face, landing pitter patter on the petals of albizias.

Meng Jue only looked on coldly. She sat up on the fleeceflower vines, calmly and coldly saying “I have to go, let go of me.” Meng Jue asked “How serious is his majesty’s illness?” Yun Ge shot him a cold look “It isn’t as bad as you   wish, you needn’t be so anxious.” Meng Jue let go of her hand, making a ‘please’ gesture, sending her off.

Yun Ge walked to the door of the greenhouse and was about to pull open the door when she heard a voice behind her “I am my adoptive father’s only disciple. I would be overly humble if I said I only learnt up to thirty, forty percent, but saying I learnt everything would be lying, but I’ve learnt at least seventy to eighty percent, and might even be better in some areas than my adoptive father.”

Yun Ge’s hand paused on the door handle “Which areas?” “For example- using poisons and antidotes for poisons. My adoptive father wasn’t interested in these matters, he cared more about how to treat illnesses, but I went deeper in my research for these aspects.”

Yun Ge coldly repeated “Your skills are only a seventh or eighth of your adoptive father’s.”

“If I were to liken all the other physician’s skills  to water, Physician Zhang’s skills would probably be like a river, the other common physicians would be like the Yellow River’s water, but my  adoptive father’s skills were like the wide ocean, so what if it only seventy to eight percent?”

Yun Ge’s heart thumped wildly and suddenly turned back. Meng Jue’s lips formed a smile, as if everything was within his expectations. She walked to him and knelt, asking sincerely “What do you want?” Meng Jue smiled at Yun Ge, the darkness in his eyes covering all emotion. “First, I’d like to understand the situation before deciding.” “What do you want to know?” “His majesty and her majesty are acting for the world to see, the grandson Huo Guang is longing for will never exist.” Meng Jue spoke confidently; it wasn’t a question but a statement. Yun Ge nodded her head.

“His majesty knew he was sick from the beginning of the year, which was why he made a series of inexplicable moves.”

It wasn’t like that, the beginning of the year was because…. Yun Ge lowered her head “I don’t know, I only found out recently.” Meng Jue lightly mocked “You are always late to realize things. You only found out the night after his majesty and her majesty’s consummation night.”

Yun Ge looked at the albizia flowers by her knee, remaining silent. Meng Jue remained silent for a long while before asking “Yun Ge, lift up your head and look at me in the eye. Is your one year promise to his majesty still valid? Will you or will you not leave after half a year?”

Under Meng Jue’s steady gaze, Yun Ge felt like all her emotions were displayed for him to see. She tried to avert her gaze, but Meng Jue caught hold of her face “Look at me, will you or will you not?” Yun Ge started to breathe heavily “I will….not! I will not!” She couldn’t lie under his gaze, and shouted out the truth uncontrollably. The instant those words were out, there was fear, regret, and no looking back, regardless of consequences.

Meng Jue smiled and let go of Yun Ge, looking down at the albizia flowers beside him, his smile growing deeper. He plucked a flower, smiled up at Yun Ge “I can go treat his majesty. I may or may not be successful. If I’m unsuccessful, I will not collect a cent, but if I succeed, I want a treatment fee.”

Yun Ge slowly relaxed, as long as he was willing, no matter what price, they would be willing to pay. “No problem.”  Meng Jue twirled the flower between his fingers as he smiled. He said extremely pleasantly “Don’t talk to me about the taxes, whether the people live or die, why should it matter to me? My fee is this, if I successfully treat his majesty, you must marry me.”

Yun Ge looked disbelivingly at Meng Jue. Meng Jue’s smile was like a passing breeze “This is the only fee I’d be willing to accept. You may return to think about it. Anyway, Han is a vast country, with rich resources, full of famous physicians, there is no need for me specifically to treat his majesty.”

Yun Ge’s eyes was full of sorrow and pain, above all, there was hatred. Meng Jue was seemingly unconcerned, as he smiled at the flower in his hand.

Yun Ge silently stood up, and left.

Meng Jue heard the door open, and close. He continued to smile. He smiled even as he sat quietly, smiled as he stared at the albizia flower in his hand.

The golden rays of the setting sun slowly disappeared, until the whole greenhouse was wrapped in darkness. He smiled as he stood, his hands behind his back, the flower between his fingers, and leisurely stepped out of the greenhouse, cutting across the flowers confidently.

A slender figure stood under the wisteria vines, blending into the night.

Meng Jue stopped, and looked silently at Yun Ge as wisteria petals fall softly on her shoulders. A dark, weak voice floated up, like it came from the depths of the dead river, filled with despair, “I promise you.”

Instead of being happy, Meng Jue got angry instead, the vein on his hands throbbed, but his smile only grew deeper. He walked the remaining steps to stand in front of her “Repeat that again.” Yun Ge raised her head, and stared at him “Once you cure his majesty’s illness, I, Yun Ge, will marry you. If I break my promise, may I be struck by lightning, and die a tragic death!” Meng Jue brushed off the fallen flowers from Yun Ge’s shoulders, and stuck the albizia flower in his hand on her hair “This flower is named He Huan [1]” Yun Ge remained silent, allowing him to do whatever he wished.

“When do you want me to see his majesty?” “Tomorrow. After court tomorrow, just say you have matters you wish to report. Yu An will arrange the rest.” “Alright.” “One more thing, I forbid you to tell anyone else about his majesty’s illness.” Meng Jue smiled and shook his head “Yun Ge, why do you have so many requests? Should I make this promise, or should I simply reject it? So as to save you from feeling like you got the short end of the stick even if I promise you.” Yun Ge’s voice was icy cold “I never expected you to agree so generously, what else do you want? Do you want me to undress now?” Meng Jue’s voice didn’t contain any anger as he blandly replied “There will be plenty of chances for that in future, no need to rush. I can’t think of anything else I want now.” Yun Ge bit herself so hard her lips were already stained with blood.

Meng Jue sighed and said “How about this! You must accede to my one request in future.” Since matters had already come to this, what else could she not agree to? Yun Ge said mockingly “A true businessman indeed! Fine.” She quickly turned and floated away from his sight, not wanting to spend any more time with him. Meng Jue stood under the wisteria vines, unmoving. The cold moon was silent; the chilly wind blew in bursts. Occasionally, flowers would gracefully fall off, rustling as they fell, then silence fell again. The longer he stood there, the more flowers fell upon his shoulders. His dinner had been heated a couple of times already, but he still did not return. When San Yue came searching for him with a lantern, she only saw a handsome, graceful man under the moonlight, standing like a god, but his figure was lonely, surprisingly showing signs of haggardness and fatigue. San Yue’s footsteps alerted him to her presence, and by the time Meng Jue turned back, he had already returned to normal. San Yue thought she was seeing things, master was always elegant, enjoying success in his youth, wherefore the tiredness and haggardness? She smiled “Dinner has already been prepared; I wasn’t sure what master would like to eat, and so arranged for the cook to cook a few more dishes.” Meng Jue said warmly “Thank you for your trouble. Go find Yi Yue, and tell him to find a way to pass this message to Da Gong Zi, just say ‘Settle the matter that person has entrusted to you as soon as possible, no matter what means or method, the faster the better.’” San Yue respectfully replied “Yes”.

Meng Jue continued “From today onwards, you have to be even more careful in what you say and do. I know all of you grew up together, and your feelings for each other run deep, but when in Chang An, you are not allowed to call each other by your nickname. Without my permission, you are not to interact with each other either.” San Yue said “I understand. Master doesn’t want others to deduce the close relationship between Da Gong Zi and master through us. We do not have any private contact with the others by Da Gong Zi’s side.”

The next day, Meng Jue requested to see Liu Fu Ling as promised.

When Liu Shun led Meng Jue into Xuan Shi Hall, Yun Ge greeted him full of smiles, like a friend, or a guest. As she walked, several albizia flowers fell from her sleeves, swirling as they landed on the stone path in front of the hall. With each step, she stepped on the flowers, crushing them into pieces.

Yun Ge bobbed a bow “Lord Meng, please follow your servant this way.” Meng Jue smiled, his gaze lightly brushing across the trampled flowers at her feet “Thank you for your trouble, my lady.”

Previously, in the great hall, covered by his imperial robes and headdress, Liu Fu Ling didn’t look ill at all. Yet, now that he was wearing a simple robe, half leaning against his pallet, Meng Jue could immediately detect the pain he was trying to hold in. Meng Jue kowtowed to pay his respects. Liu Fu Ling bade him to rise with a wave of his hand “Many thanks for your willingness to look at my illness.” Liu Fu Ling’s words were sincere; Meng Jue replied “It was only your subject’s duty.”

Yun Ge moved a couch over for Meng Jue, bidding him to sit with a smile. Liu Fu Ling said “Yun Ge has already told me your request. Although it is a little difficult, but I shall accede to your request.” Meng Jue’s smile grew deeper, and he looked at Yun Ge, scorn apparent in his eyes. There was terror in Yun Ge’s eyes, her smile silently pleading. Meng Jue’s gaze swept across, smiled and kowtowed to Liu Fu Ling “Thank you, your majesty.” Meng Jue knelt beside Liu Fu Ling, “Your subject will first take your majesty’s pulse.”

As Meng Jue took his pulse, he observed his colour, going through each and every detail with Yu An about his majesty’s usual routine. Yun Ge silently knelt on the other side, keeping an eye on Meng Jue’s every action. Meng Jue cross checked with Physician Zhang, asking what medicine and what treatment method he implemented. Physician Zhang answered everything truthfully. As Meng Jue listened to Physician Zhang’s description of his acupuncture methods, surprise flashed through his eyes. In the medical field, a lot of things were kept secret, its secrets only passing on to the son and not the daughter; although Physician Zhang wasn’t a close minded person, but he didn’t understand Meng Jue, so he didn’t want to elaborate on the details of his acupuncture. He only briefly explained where he inserted the needles, and the general theory behind it. He didn’t expect Meng Jue to say after listening “Using the shui gou, nei guan, and san ying jiao acupoints to assist the ji quan, chi ze, wei zhong, he gu meridian lines, it is a fine way to treat thoracic obstruction. However, Physician Zhang’s method is to use vital-qi to dispel the bad-qi. Instead of that, why not try a ‘reduce’ method from the ‘closing to open’ theory? Use ‘lifting thrusting’ and ‘rotating’ the needle technique to accomplish this. First use the pecking acupuncture technique, then the lifting-thrusting technique, finally tonifying and reducing by lifting-thrusting the needle on the crucial acupoints.”

The Zhangs were known for their acupuncture, and for Meng Jue to critique their technique so casually upset Physician Zhang at first, then he was rendered dumb, deep in thought, finally, joy overcame him and he ran up to Meng Jue excitedly to ask for more information, completely forgetting that he was in the Great Hall.

Yu An coughed out a warning, then only did Physician Zhang come to his senses, quickly kneeling to ask for his punishment to be meted out. Liu Fu Ling laughed “I understand the joy you get when you have searched far and wide in vain then suddenly gain enlightenment. I should congratulate Physician Zhang.”

Physician Zhang said excitedly “Your subject should congratulate your majesty too for meeting an outstanding physician that was thought to have passed on without any disciples. This set of acupuncture techniques was taught to my father by his old friend, Master Meng. That year, my father was already more than forty years of age, and was recognized by the imperial physicians to be an outstanding doctor, but Master Meng’s skills put him to shame. My father had the chance to learn acupuncture from Master Meng, but because Master Meng was still testing it out at that time, this set of skills wasn’t complete. Then one day, he suddenly left Chang An, living reclusively, so my father only learnt half of this set of skills. After more than ten years of hard work, we have improved on it, so much so that its fame has spread across Han, and people know it as “Zhang Family Acupuncture.’ My father decreed that every descendant in our clan to be eligible to learn this set of skills, if and when we use it, we are not to charge a single cent for it, only collecting money for medication. This was a way to thank Master Meng for his generosity, as well as a sign that my father refused to take credit for this set of skills. Before he left this world, my father was still thinking about this set of skills; he kept saying ‘I really want to know what the complete set of skills Master Meng developed will look like. If I have the chance to see him again, the chance to complete this set of skills, it will be the good fortune of all.’” He turned to kowtow respectfully to Meng Jue “I thank Lord Meng on behalf of my father for your graciousness, allowing the descendants of Zhang to have the chance to witness this set of skills. During ancestral rituals, I can finally tell my father, Master Meng had a pupil, and I’m sure my father will be smiling in the netherworld.”

Just one set of acupuncture skills unexpectedly threw light on a relationship many years ago. This relationship wasn’t just the relationship of friends, but a great favour bestowed that benefited many. Naturally, the teacher was unusually broad minded, but the student was also worthy of respect. Everyone present was moved by what they just heard.

After being used to the dark underbelly of the court, the calculations and machinations between humans, hearing this open and aboveboard story made Liu Fu Ling laugh out loud; he turned to Meng Jue saying “Thinking of your father’s graciousness, really makes one want to experience it for himself.” Throughout his adoptive father’s life, he met with people as noble as the imperial family, and people as lowly as the common street peddlers, the people he helped were even more uncountable. This matter in his adoptive father’s life was probably only a small wave, Meng Jue had never heard his adoptive father mention this before, so when he first heard Physician Zhang mention his acupuncture, he was suspicious.

Critiquing Physician Zhang’s skills, first, it was done deliberately; second, it was because his adoptive father has never taught him to hoard and hide his medical skills. All along, his adoptive father was willing to teach all who sought his teachings, as long as they didn’t plan on using it for evil, so he too had never tried to hide a better method of treatment from others either. Yun Ge felt a mix of happiness and sadness. At first she was still suspicious over Meng Jue’s medical skills, but now as she saw Physician Zhang’s respectful attitude towards Meng Jue, her suspicions ebbed away. However…. Yun Ge looked at the smiling Liu Fu Ling, and felt her heart contract in pain.

After Meng Jue took Liu Fu Ling’s pulse, he closed his eyes, sinking deep in thought, not speaking for a long while. No one in the hall dared to breathe, all waiting for his verdict with bated breath. Liu Fu Ling said “If you have anything to say, just tell it to me directly, no need to put yourself in a spot.” Meng Jue thought quickly, after mulling over it for a bit, he finally reported “Your subject cannot deduce the exact illness right now either. Not all illnesses in the world can be found in the medical logs of our ancestors; or even if it appears, it differs according to person, or geography. Your subject will perform acupuncture for your majesty once first, then complement it with medication, to see what the effect would be.”

Yun Ge quickly went to prepare clean water and towels, gesturing for Meng Jue to wash his hand. During the acupuncture, Liu Fu Ling would be required to take off his clothes, Yu An mentioned for Yun Ge to leave. Yun Ge looked at Meng Jue, hesitating over whether or not to leave when Meng Jue smiled and lowered his voice “Since I’m collecting payment for this treatment, why are you still afraid I wouldn’t do my best?” Yun Ge’s hand shook, and the basin in her hand almost fell onto the floor.

Liu Fu Ling didn’t wish for Yun Ge to see him in pain during acupuncture, so he said “Yun Ge, tonight I will dine with you at Xuan Shi Hall, I would love to eat the fish you cook.” Yun Ge smiled “Alright, I’ll go make it right away.”

As Liu Fu Ling had loved to eat fish since he was a child, the imperial kitchen was usually supplied with a variety of live fish. The imperial chef presented a basin of fish, allowing Yun Ge to choose “This is the carp that was sent in this morning and its water has already been changed ten times.” Yun Ge chose a medium sized, lively, active carp, then ordered others to pluck lotus leaves and flowers from the river, getting ready to make lotus scented sliced fish.

After busying herself for about two hours, she made four dishes and a soup, Yun Ge ordered for the dishes to be placed in a bamboo steamer to be kept warm, so that it could be served anytime. When she returned to Xuan Shi Hall, Qi Xi said “Lord Meng is still discussing matters with his majesty.” Yun Ge nodded her head. After another hour of waiting, Yu An finally ushered Meng Jue out.

Yun Ge hurried to meet him, when she saw the happiness written on Yu An’s face, she relaxed “How is his majesty?” Meng Jue nodded tiredly “Thank goodness I didn’t fail to accomplish this task.” Yu An said joyfully “His majesty said, he felt a lot better, the tightness in his chest seemed to be completely cleared.” Meng Jue said “I will see his majesty again in five days.”

Although Yun Ge didn’t understand medicine, but she had heard that acupuncture was the act of inserting needles on one’s acupoints, if done well, it could save lives, if done badly, it could easily result in either paralysis or even death. She saw the fatigue on his face, and knew that he didn’t have an easy time of it either, so she softly said “Many thanks.”

Suddenly, a eunuch came rushing into Xuan Shi Hall, breathlessly reporting “Supervisor Yu, Lord Hu requests an audience with his majesty.” Yu An frowned “Was this how your teacher taught you to behave? Slap yourself!”

The eunuch slapped himself consecutively a few times on the left and right cheek, turned and retreated from Xuan Shi Hall, then entered with his body bent respectfully, and his hands in his sleeves, bowed then said “Supervisor Yu, Lord Huo has important matters he wishes to report to his majesty.”

“Tell Lord Huo, that the night is deep, his majesty has been worn out from a day at work; he can save his words tomorrow!” The eunuch glanced furtively at Meng Jue, then whispered “Chancellor Tian suddenly collapsed from a stroke and might not be able to survive past tonight.”

“What?” Yu An asked in surprise. Although Tian Qian Qiu was over fifty years of age, he had always been robust, how could he suddenly be dying? The look in Meng Jue’s eyes changed, he respectfully made a gesture to take his leave.

Yu An didn’t have further time to talk “Lord Meng, please have a safe trip home”, then he rushed to report the matter to his majesty. Not long later, Liu Fu Ling hurriedly came out from the hall, fully dressed; when he saw Yun Ge, he looked apologetic “I might be back later tonight, don’t wait for me to eat, you’d better eat first.” Yun Ge smiled and nodded “No problem.”

In a matter of minutes, the whole Xuan Shi Hall became completely empty, leaving only Yun Ge standing alone in front of it. She slowly sat down on the steps of the hall, silently staring at the night sky, in a cold, empty hall.

[1] He Huan literally means joyous union, and is the name of the pink siris, also known as the albizia julibrissin flower.
Tags: translations, yun zhong ge

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  • Update

    Hello to those who still frequent this blog in hopes for an update; I've been absolutely swamped with work - was playing the whole month of…

  • Cafe Hunt: La Vie Tropicale

    Bestie and I went cafe hunting one day and stumbled on La Vie Tropicale, on 125 Telok Ayer Street. It's a relatively new cafe, having only…

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