Do you guys know what empowerment entails? It means doing something rather than just complaining. My imagination is mine, my facility with words are mine, and my love for Da Mo Yao is all mine. Rather than have it taken away from me with hack drama casting, I choose to keep the novel all mine. I was waiting for a Jiu Ye casting to insert pictures of that actor, but now the novel will be narrated with the dream casting of Hu Ge as Huo Qu Bing, Liu Shi Shi as Jin Yu, and Wallace Huo as Jiu Ye. If HuHuoShi can’t happen in real life, it can happen in our vibrant imaginations. Let’s let this wonderful drama live on with the cast we deserve, and pay no heed to the things that are beyond our control. Chapter 28 pushes the OT3 to interact in a life-and-death situation, and Jiu Ye really steps up. I might have been annoyed with his emotional reticence in the past, but I’ve always loved his unending capacity for kindness and selflessness. He shows me, and Yu Er, that he’ll always be the man she fell in love with, even if she is now in love with someone else. Life – it’s so not fair. Me and you both, Jiu Ye, me and you both.
Chapter 28: Illness
A few days have passed and still Huo Qu Bing hasn’t shown up. Hong Gu, Xing Yen, and none of the maids understand what could have happened. Hong Gu tries to ask me but I refuse to say anything. I feel the mood is getting so tense and soon everyone around me talks less and their voices get lower. Until the end, when the maids see each other, they simply communicate via their eyes. One would shoot a look to the other while the other returns a look. I have no clue what they are communicating and how they are able to understand each other.
I point to Xing Lan and Xing Yen, who are delivering a meal, and ask Hong Gu “Do you have any idea what they are saying to each other?” Hong Gu replied “What’s so hard to understand. Xing Lan asked Xing Yen “Did she eat today?” Xing Yen shook her head “Nope.” Then Xing Lan followed with “I haven’t eaten either, I’m so hungry!” Then Xing Yen snuck a peek at you and nodded to Xing Lan “Later let’s get something to eat behind Yu Er’s back!” and then the two girls agreed.”
I spit out the tea in my mouth, coughing and laughing at the same time “Hong Gu, looks like your visual communications with Xing Yen after you entered the room was also all about whether I’ve eaten, and making plans to go eat later.” Hong Gu calmly sipped her tea “My question was not “Has she eaten today?” but was instead “Has she drank anything today?” I wiped my lips with a handkerchief “You go on talking nonsense!”
Hong Gu lowered her cup “If I don’t talk nonsense how can I get you to laugh. These past few days your expression has been just terrible. You’re hurting and we are also suffering for you. Yu Er, why are you so hard on yourself? You clearly miss him terribly and are filled with lots of worries. Why don’t you go see him?” I lower my head and say nothing when Xing Yen walks in “Ms. Yu Er, Housekeeper Chen from the Huo Estate is here to see you.”
Hong Gu quickly invited him him in and walked out “The mediator is here so I can let out a breath of relief. If you two don’t make up, you two might be able to withstand it, but none of us can any longer.”
Uncle Chen walked in and immediately kneeled before me without even saying a word. I try to duck “Uncle Chen, please talk directly, I can’t take such a courtesy from you.” He continued to kneel, his face completely bleak, like he hasn’t slept all night
“Ms. Yu, that day when the Big Boss of the Shi Enterprises came to see me to ask about you, he made a total of three trips. Each time I kept him out, and I also…..I also was quite rude to him. Even though young master ordered that we hide the driver of the carriage and conceal all information related to the inn at Liang Zhou, all he did was ask me to keep your whereabouts secret but he never asked me to be rude to Jiu Ye. Young master is arrogant and now he’s trying to protect me, so he’s not bothering to explain to you. I can’t watch the two of you fighting over something I did all on my own, causing a rift between you two.”
Mu hurt came forth “Uncle Chen, why did you do that? What’s happening right now, is this the happiness you wanted for Qu Bing?” Uncle Chen was silent and only bowed his head to me three times. I continue to try and avoid his courtesy but he managed to bow at least once to me “Please get up! What can I do now since everything has already happened. Even if I rage or ask for punishment, there are no do-overs. Please get up and talk. I’m not used to talking to someone kneeling to me.”
Uncle Chen continued to kneel and said nothing. Moments passed and I stared at him quizzically. He suddenly avoided my eyes and appeared to be summoning his courage. It took him a long time to say it “Yesterday the young master was out riding and he suddenly tumbled off his horse. He’s been unconscious since then.”
His words were so unbelievable that I couldn’t comprehend what he just said “What? What did you just say?”
Uncle Chen spoke in such a low voice “The Palace physicians have been by many times but none of them have any solution. Normally they are all proclaiming themselves miracle healers fighting for recognition and respect. But once they face a genuine illness, they start hemming and hawing, trying to pawn it off on each other. The Palace is already in an uproar and the Emperor is in such a rage that he’s threatened to kill the entire lot of them. If killing them means the young master will awaken, I don’t care if a hundred heads roll. But right now we need them to save a life.”
I only understood a few words of what he was saying, but it was like the sky had fallen on me. My shock, fear, regret, and pain all bubbled forth. I pay no heed to what he’s saying and my foot is already out the door. Uncle Chen rushed behind me and kept calling me “Ms. Yu, please slow down, I’m not done talking yet.” I see the carriage outside belongs to the Huo Estate and I leap inside “Immediately return to the estate” I ordered.
I can hear Uncle Chen calling me “Please wait” and the driver doesn’t move. I want to grab the reins and drive the carriage but Uncle Chen calls out to me “Ms. Yu, I’m not done talking. I’ve heard that the Big Boss of the Shi Enterprises is a talented healer. I was wondering…..” I now realize why he didn’t start by telling me that Qu Bing was ill, and why he was on his knees and bowing to me. So this was the whole story.
Uncle Chen ran in front of the carriage and was out of breath “Hiring a doctor requires the doctor to be willing to heal the patient. I know Ms. Yu’s personality hates that I’m beating around the bush right now, and I am so embarrassed and ashamed about it as well. But if I don’t explain everything, I cannot ask you to help. If young master Meng Jiu can heal my young master, if he wanted my head, I’d hand it to him without blinking an eye.”
I angrily huff “You underestimate Jiu Ye!” My heart was churning with anxiety to go see Qu Bing immediately, but I have to push that urge down. I tell the driver “Go to the Shi Estate.” Uncle Chen said he would return to the estate and wait for us.
Jiu Ye sat there reading a novel and when he raised his head and saw me, his book dropped to the ground. He looked incredulous and his dark eyes were shining with happiness “Yu Er, I’ve waited for so long, and you’ve finally decided to walk back into the Bamboo Residence willingly.” My heart ached and I wouldn’t meet his eyes “I’m here to ask you to heal Qu Bing. He’s been unconscious since yesterday and word is that none of the Palace physicians can heal him.”
The light in his eyes slowly disappear until his eyes are simply dark with disappointment, sadness, and pain. He didn’t ask anything and just said one word “Yes” and then pushed his wheelchair out the door. Uncle Chen was waiting outside the estate and when he saw Jiu Ye, his old face was bright red. He bow low and Jiu Ye graciously asked him to get up. But Uncle Chen’s face was still beet red with shame. Two servants came with a bamboo pallet and Uncle Chen explained that the estate was not made for wheelchair access and this would be faster.
Jiu Ye smiled “Please have them hold the pallet still, I can get on myself. Have the wheelchair brought inside, I’ll need it later.” I see the way Uncle Chen is behaving and I’m angry to think about how poorly he must’ve treated Jiu Ye before to be so polite and courteous now. I sarcastically say “I wonder how he was able to move about the estate in his wheelchair in previous occasions?”
Uncle Chen said nothing and just led the way, while Jiu Ye looked at me and the coldness in his eyes seeped away. He murmured in a low voice “I thought you only cared about him now, and no longer care about how I feel.”
The moment we enter the room, Wei Shao Er has been standing vigil next to the bed and she looks up in alarm. She rushes forward to greet Jiu Ye like a drowning person seeing a branch. Hope mixes with despair in her eyes, whereas I’m the opposite reaction. I don’t even bow to her before I rush to the side of the bed.
He lays there quietly, his lips tightly pressed together and his brows furrowed with worry. It appears he has a lot on his mind. Since I’ve known him, he’s been as bright as the sunshine, always so full of life and energy. This is the first time I’ve seen him like this, so still and seemingly helpless. I use my finger to rub his forehead, my nose starting to redden and before I know it, my face is wet with tears “Qu Bing, Qu Bing…..Yu Er is here! I was wrong. I shouldn’t have engaged in a temper battle with you.”
Jiu Ye pressed his hand on Qu Bing’s wrist but he couldn’t reach a pulse. “Have the servants bring a basin of ice water, I need to clean my hands.” The maid flew out the door and then Jiu Ye wiped his hand on an ice cube and then dried it. He appeared to be calming himself down on the ice before once again placing his hand on Qu Bing’s wrist.
Wei Shao Er and I stare at Jiu Ye without blinking, unconsciously pleading with him to wake Qu Bing up. Jiu Ye closed his eyes and focused all his attention on his finger tips. Everyone in that room held their breaths, it was so quiet we could hear the ice in the basin melting. The more time that passed, the more my fear increased. Why did he need so much time? Jiu Ye’s expression was calm and I couldn’t tell what was happening. Finally Jiu Ye pulled his hand back and I stared at him. My voice was filled with abject fear and pleading anxiety “He’ll be fine, won’t he?”
Ju Ye’s eyes were as calm and impossible to read as ever, and he hesitated before nodding “He’ll be fine. I’ll do everything I can to make sure he wakes up.” My heart, which had been perched on the tip of a needle, finally returned to its normal spot. He looked at Qu Bing’s visage and pressed his ear to Qu Bing’s chest to listen for quite some time. He then placed his finger on Qu Bing’s wrist once more before asking “What did the Palace physicians say?”
Uncle Chen looked at a row of men standing to the side, and one white haired elderly gentleman stepped forward “All of us cannot diagnose the problem. His heartbeat is weak but it’s steady. Usually we can use medicine to shock him awake, but the General’s situation is beyond odd. Usually an unconscious person can be forced to drink medicine, but the General refuses to accept the medicine. We cannot force feed him, and acupuncture does not work either. We’ve flipped through all the books and cannot find a treatment.”
Jiu Ye nodded and turned to Wei Shao Er “General Huo is emotionally stressed, which is normally not a big deal. But this has caused all his hidden ailments accumulated from years on the battlefield to arise. Because General Huo is different than a normal person, the split second before he tumbled off the horse, his self-preservation instinct is so strong that it’s caused him to shut himself off from any outside attempts to force feed him medicine. Madam, the Palace physicians are right in their diagnoses, and they’ve tried all the treatments already. I can do no better. But….”
Wei Shao Er was so anxious her voice turned high pitched “But what?” Jiu Ye continued “I can try something different, and it’s something I’ve only been researching and have never actually performed before.” Wei Shao Er quickly asked him to explain. “A person has five senses, and taste is but one of them. The sense of touch, the skin is tied to all the major organs. If we can’t get the medicine in through his mouth, we can try another entry point. Take off the General’s clothes and lock him in an airtight room and use a steam method to boil the medicine and have it enter his body through his skin.”
Wei Shao Er looked at the Palace physicians and they all exchanged looks before one spoke up “Steaming the medicine into the body would make the room exceedingly hot. From a medical standpoint, the heat is not good for the patient and might exacerbate the illness. But this method also sounds like it could work. We cannot authorize it and will need Madam to make the decision.”
Wei Shao Er glared at them and then looked at Qu Bing with hesitation, unable to make up her mind right away. No one dares make a noise, afraid that if anything were to happen, they would be held responsible. Wei Shao Er looked at her husband for guidance, but since it’s not his own son, he is anxious but still unable to step forward and says that he will support whatever she decides to do. I get up and bow to Wei Shao Er “I beg of Madam to please consent, the longer this drags out the worse it’ll get.”
Wei Shao Er’s voice cracked “But what if Qu Bing gets worse?” I reply “If Jiu Ye says he can wake Qu Bing up, then he will wake Qu Bing up.” Wei Shao Er still couldn’t decide and I got more anxious. But right now I’m considered nobody to Qu Bing, and at this moment I realized how important a proper title can be. Even though he’s as important to me as my own life, I cannot speak up at this moment and can only beg and plead with Wei Shao Er.
Jiu Ye’s eyes are filled with tender pity and he suddenly turned to bow to Wei Qing “What does the Great General Wei think?” Wei Qing, normally a man of few words, couldn’t believe Jiu Ye turned to him to speak “Second sister, since things are what it is, we have no other choice. We have to take this risk, so let Mr. Meng perform his treatment! The Emperor is very concerned about Qu Bing’s illness and Mr. Meng would never be anything but careful. He must have thought things through before giving his treatment suggestion.” Wei Shao Er nodded her head, finally agreeing.
It’s no wonder he’s the man even Liu Che is wary of. Wei Qing said little but his every word was like a hidden knife. He made the decision but also placed all the risk on Jiu Ye, completely thorough. Jiu Ye ordered Uncle Chen to prepare everything. When the door to the room closed, I stood outside and just stared without moving. From morning until it was pitch black outside, there was still no movement in that room. After a long time, Jiu Ye asked for ice and it was passed inside to him.
Wei Shao Er was so tense her lips were colorless, and I walked over to her to offer my hand. She hesitated and then grabbed it, our hands are both icy cold. But when we held hands, a warmth slowly seeped through. In that moment, among so many people, we understand each other’s pain.
She gripped my hand more and more tightly and her demeanor appeared to be shaky. She looked at me asking for some assurance, and I looked at her with the conviction that Qu Bing would wake up. She couldn’t sustain herself any longer and put her head on my shoulder. My back was ramrod straight as I stared at that room. Qu Bing, you must be fine, nothing must happen to you!
The door silently opened and Jiu Ye came out with his face white and his lips blue. He grabbed the door weakly and nodded his head. Everyone cried out in happiness and Wei Shao Er rushed inside the room and then she cried “Why is he not awake?” All the Palace physicians ran inside but I turned back to Jiu Ye. I discovered he had passed out in his wheelchair, and one middle-aged physician noticed as well and rushed over to Jiu Ye.
My heart was half ice cold and half burning up. The pain and the guilt was tearing me apart. I was in such a rush to see Qu Bing that I didn’t even notice Jiu Ye had passed out. What must he had felt the moment he fainted?
“Congratulations, Madam. He’s awake. Mr. Meng lit some sleeping incense when he was treating General Huo, so it’ll take a bit of time for him to wake up. But right now he’s just sleeping and no longer unconscious.” Wei Shao Er was so happy her knees buckled and she sank to the ground. I hear that Qu Bing is fine and half of my heart calmed down, but the other half hurt even more. Jiu Ye was slumped in his wheelchair and his hands are so pale I can see the blue veins. I pick up his hands and it feels like ice “What happened to him?”
The middle-aged physician put down Jiu Ye’s other hand “He’s naturally of a weaker constitution than most people, and the steam inside that room was astoundingly hot. A normal person could barely withstand a few hours, plus he had to keep using ice to cool down the General’s body temperature. The hot and cold mixed together, it was already a miracle he could endure it for so long.”
I rub Jiu Ye’s hands and use my mouth to breath warm air to try and heat it up. Uncle Chen bowed to the physician “Will doctor please treat Jiu Ye. When the General awakens he will surely greatly reward you.” The physician responded “A doctor who risked his life to save another is something I have never seen before. I don’t need you to ask me, I will do my best to treat him.” I tell Uncle Chen “Please prepare the carriage, we need to take Jiu Ye back to the Shi Estate.”
Uncle Chen turned to look at the sleeping Qu Bing “When the General awakens, he will surely be anxious to see you.” I look at the crowd of people surrounding him, like stars around a moon, filled with royal relatives, doctors, and servants alike “I’ll hurry back, but whether I’m here or not makes no difference right now.”
Uncle Chen looked at Jiu Ye’s ashen white face and blue lips and sighed “Ms. Yu, please go with no worries! We will take good care of the young master.” When getting on the carriage, the servants want to help but I wave them off and gingerly carry Jiu Ye on the carriage myself. The physician followed “What splendid martial arts, you barely jostled the patient at all.” I force a smile “Thank you, and what is your surname?” He replied “I am Dr. Zhang, and we’ve actually met before. That day it was General Huo who summoned me to the Shi Estate to treat the young miss.”
I answer “So I’ve already burdened Dr. Zhang before.” He shook his head “With Mr. Meng’s medical skills, I was not needed. But having a chance to listen to him talk medicine is something I ought to thank you for.”
Dr. Zhang personally brewed medicine and helped me feed it to Jiu Ye. He also carefully told me and Tian Cao all the things we need to be aware of before finally departing. When I left here with Jiu Ye, he was perfectly fine, but he came back unconscious. Shi Buo was clearly not happy, but each time he wanted to say something to me, Tian Cao silently asked him not to.
Because I was worried Jiu Ye would need water or anything else, I stayed beside him while he slept fitfully on the pallet. It was like he was worried about things even in his dreams. His eyebrows would twitch and a look of pain would pass across his face.
This is the first time I’ve studied him in such close proximity, and it is also the first time he doesn’t try to conceal anything about himself by using pleasant smiles to hide his real feelings. I rest next to his pillow and start humming a herding song.
Jiu Ye’s furrowed brows start to loosen and his sleep deepens. I hum this ballad over and over and tears come to my eyes. This is a very popular Xiong Nu folk song that talked about a royal lady named Yi Zhu and a slave named Ba Ya Er and their love story. When I was a child, I often heard Yu Dan’s mother the Queen sing this song with a look of sadness and unshed tears. I didn’t understand back then why the song initially had Yi Zhu staring at Ba Ya Er’s back from a far away place, and ended up with Ba Ya Er staring at Yi Zhu’s back from a far away place.
I feel a hand caressing my cheek and I immediately snap out of it, unsure of when I went into a daze. My face was resting on the pallet and at this moment Jiu Ye had turned on his side and his face was directly opposite mine. We can feel each other’s breathing. His fingers were tracing my face, from the eyebrow to the eyes, the nose, the lips, the chin, as if he wanted to commit it to memory and carve it into his heart. His eyes were filled with earth shattering pain, rivers and oceans of regret and longing, of pain and agony.
I’m lured in by his eyes and my mind was shaken. He’s always so calm and placid, all the sadness he usually brushes away with a smile. Right now in the depths of his back eyes I can see two little versions of myself, with my face shocked but stubbornly unmoving. He slowly pulled back his hand and smiled. It was the usual smile like a Spring breeze, sweeping away the stormy clouds to return everything to sunshine, but obscuring the things hidden in his eyes.
After some time, he smiled at me “Can you sing the ballad you were humming earlier again?”
I woodenly nod my head and clear my throat and sing it again. After my song has finished for some time, the two of us are still frozen to the spot. His voice was so low it was barely audible “Why was Ba Ya Er so stupid? Why did he never turn back to look at Yi Zhu? Why did he keep forcing Yi Zhu to try and read his feelings? Why couldn’t he have told Yi Zhu how he really felt? He’s smarter than the wiliest fox on the plains, so why couldn’t be understand that Yi Zhu didn’t care about his humble birth and was willing to endure hardship with him?”
I had thought he didn’t understand the Xiong Nu language which is why I sang this song. I forgot how how well-learned he was, and that during the heyday of the Xiong Nu power, all the Xi Yu kingdoms bowed down to the Xiong Nu so the language was widely spoken in Xi Yu. I was so shocked I asked “You understand Xiong Nu? And you know the folk love story of Ba Ya Er and Yi Zhu?”
He hummed the last refrain “The cloud chased the moon and Ba Ya Er accompanied Yi Zhu. Ten thousand nightingales on the plains could not sing enough about their happiness.” His eyes stared at me without wavering “Even though Ba Ya Er did hurt Yi Zhu, but the ballad tells us that they did end up together happily ever after. Do you believe what this song said?” I don’t answer the question and tell him “I need to get going.”
He turned his head away from me and lightly said “I had hoped that I would never wake up, then you will stay here forever and take care of me. But then you would be worried and sad.”
All the tears I was supressing when I was singing came forth at last so I quickly turn around and wipe my tears “Please take care of yourself and get better. I’ll come visit you when I get a chance.” I finish talking and am about to walk out when he urgently grabbed my hand and said very slowly and carefully “Yu Er, tell me! Who do you care about more? Forget promises and vows. Without taking into account anything else, who do you think about just that little bit more. Who do you want to be with?”
I bit my lip and want to pull my hand back, but he refuses to let go. He asked the same question one more time, each word just as carefully spoken as before. I want to say something, but seeing his fatigue and worn out visage, I was torn between wanting to tell the truth and then not having the heart to tell him. I can’t say it out loud so I just jerk my hand out of his.
He sees me like this and the pain in his eyes is so visible, combined with so many other emotions. Finally it all just distills into dead silence. He suddenly let my hand go “Seeing you like this today, I actually already knew the answer. You can go now!”
I’m afraid to turn around and fly out of the room. I’m facing the cold bitter wind as I run into the dark night, my heart unable to calm down.