Chapter 55 is really a long overdue moment for Xu Ping Jun and Meng Jue to talk again. It’s probably been years since these two really had a heart-to-heart, not since a young Xu Ping Jun begged Meng Jue for help so that she didn’t marry her betrothed and could be together with Liu Bing Yi (Liu Xun). What I love in the complexity of Yun Zhong Ge is that the characters truly grow and change during the course of this novel. Yun Ge’s maturation was caused by pain, whereas Xu Ping Jun’s maturation was caused by love. She wanted to be good enough for Liu Bing Yi, and she managed by hard work to learn to read and is currently sitting in the second loftiest spot in the entire dynasty as the Empress. But inside she’s still the same Xu Ping Jun, loyal and quick to anger, fearless and without airs. Of course Yun Ge wasn’t going to die in front of Liu Fu Ling’s tomb, however much it might be romantic in that period drama way where lovers are reunited in death. But if Yun Ge doesn’t die, then how will she handle the truth about Liu Fu Ling’s assassination, and will she continue to blame Meng Jue? Despite Yun Ge’s reasoning in the last chapter, her theory was only half-right, but it’s the rest of what she doesn’t know that will have consequences that reverberate to everyone she cares about – Meng Jue, Xu Ping Jun, and even Liu Xun. This chapter also takes a short walk down memory lane, and as usual I was sniffling through each word I translated. Not to mention it also contains an amazing scene that is a redux of an epic scene in Da Mo Yao between Jiu Ye and Yu Er when he was ill she went to save him. Like father, like mother? So it seems they are also destined to walk the same path.
Chapter 55: Meeting Again Because of the Vast Sky
The same moon, the same stars, the same quiet. But the night view in Wei Yang Palace is different than that of an ordinary home.
The darkness can cover so much ugliness. Nefarious plots seem to love the darkness. In this Palace, darkness is usually when things happen. The Emperor and his consort trade secret glances in bed. The consorts shoot daggers at each other while changing. The princes toast each other while sharpening their knives under the table….
In this place, smiles are near but true happiness is very far. The body is near but the soul is very far. The beauty is near but kindness is very far. And the ugliness that should be far away is in fact closest here. Ugliness resides under every beautiful visage, under every beaming smile, under every glamorous robe, under ever gentle whisper, under every decorated door.
But in the darkness sometimes there is a normal flower.
In the evenings in Shu Fang Pavilion, other than not having a man of the house, it was no different than an ordinary home. A kind mother with needle and thread in hand, a son reading his book. Under the warm candle light, Liu Shi laid on the pallet studying while Xu Ping Jun did needle work while keeping an eye on him.
Liu Shi did some work and saw his mother still sewing and asked “Mother, aren’t you tired? Don’t you want to rest for a bit?”
Xu Ping Jun smiled and shook her head “Let me fix this sleeve first, then I’ll rest.”
“Mom, why are you making clothes for me, why don’t you make an outfit for the soon to arrive little brother or sister?” Liu Shi poured a cup of water for his mother and couldn’t help himself and touched her rounded belly, unable to believe a living being resided there.
“The clothes you wore when you were small can be worn by the new baby. But you keep growing every day so before the little one arrives and I still have time, let me make you a few outfits otherwise you’ll find yourself with nothing to wear.”
Liu Shi laughed “Master also said I was growing very fast lately. But the Palace has clothes prepared for me already.” Xu Ping Jun glared at him “Next time you come with mom to the village where I grew up. and hear that there isn’t a son raised there that didn’t wear clothes made by his mother.” Liu Shi smiled and said nothing.
Xu Ping Jun finished a sleeve and stretched. Liu Shi was about to get up to rub her back when suddenly there came shouts from outside. Liu Shi furrowed his brows and went to check.
Liu Shi walked out but ran in “Royal mother, Fu Su heard intruders invaded the Imperial Tombs and 500 soldiers were dispatched there.” Xu Ping Jun smiled “That’s good” but then realized and asked “No! Which Imperial Tomb?”
“Ping Ling! Fu Su heard it was girl and he’s so worried that it could be Auntie.”
Xu Ping Jun jumped up and the baby inside kicked wildly. A maid helped her but Xu Ping Jun took a deep breath and walked out “I need to go check now. If its not your Auntie then it’ll be fine. If it is……”
Liu Shi said nothing. His mother and his Auntie’s bond was tighter then even normal blood sisters. He knew his mother would leave the Palace so he had already told Fu Su to prepare a carriage. “Mother, normal people can’t even get close to the Imperial Tombs. But if Auntie wanted to go she would find many ways, so why go at night. I don’t think it’s Auntie but just to make sure let’s go together!”
Xu Ping Jun wanted to say something but her mouth opened a few times before she finally said “When you are older I’ll tell you about your Auntie’s situation. Because there are many ways and yet she’s never once visited Ping Ling. So if it’s her tonight, then something major must have happened. Make the horses go faster.”
Liu Shi helped his mother on the carriage and told Fu Su “Fast and smooth.” Fu Su drove the carriage out of Wei Yang Palace and into the pouring rain. When they arrived they did not see Yun Ge, only a thick cluster of soldiers crowded around the Imperial Tomb. The dais was covered with blood mixed with rain.
Liu Shi looked and almost got dizzy. He wanted to stop his mother “Royal mother, please don’t go. There is blood outside……..”
Xu Ping Jun jerked her hand out of his “Your mother has experienced way more than you can imagine.” She jumped out of the carriage and Fu Su covered her with an umbrella. Seeing the blood on the dais, Xu Ping Jun’s heart thundered but kept her face calm. She walked towards the dais and told Fu Su “Order everyone to kneel!”
Fu Su cleared his throat and hollered “The Empress and the Crown Prince are here! Everyone kneel in supplication!”
Everyone turned around and kneeled one by one. The power of the Empress plus the Crown Prince was great indeed and in seconds everyone was kneeling. On the dais she could see a sword cutting through the air and flashing in the darkness. Xu Ping Jun finally saw Yu An, but Yun Ge….
Yu An was covered completely in blood and the moment he saw her, his entire body toppled forward and Yun Ge appeared from behind him where he was shielding her.
Xu Ping Jun spied blood on Yun Ge and she started running. Fu Su grabbed her “Your Highness, you are expecting. Let me go check.” He handed the umbrella to another servant and leaped over the heads of the kneeling soldiers onto the dais.
He took Yu An’s pulse and could find a weak one. His heart hurt so much and he hollered with rage at the soldiers “Do you guys know who he is? You guys……” He wanted to strike them but stopped himself to go check on Yun Ge. He ordered a soldier “You carry him down and immediately send to Dr. Chang’s medical clinic outside Chang An. If he doesn’t survive, then you better prepare your own funeral.”
The soldier immediately picked Yu An up and hurried to seek help.
When Fu Su picked up the unconscious Yun Ge, he was relieved thinking she was not injured. Then he sensed something was not right because her entire face was bright red. He felt something sticky on her back different than rain. He checked and saw a not small wound. Normally it could be treated but she’s been out here bleeding in the rain, now….
Fu Su refused to think any further and picked up Yun Ge to carry down the dais. “Your Highness, the Miss is injured. She needs a doctor.”
Xu Ping Jun saw Yun Ge’s state and her anger and sadness bubbled forth. Her entire body shook with rage as she pointed at all the soldiers “You guys dare injured her here at Ping Ling……”
Liu Shi heard his Auntie was injured and tried to calm his mother down “Royal mother, they were just doing their jobs. What’s most important right now is saving Auntie and not punishing them. Let’s hurry back to the Palace to see a royal physician.”
Xu Ping Jun cleared her head and the two of them followed Fu Su into the carriage with Yun Ge. Xu Ping Jun stared at Yun Ge without blinking, constantly checking her pulse and her breathing. Liu Shi could see his mother wasn’t doing so well either and tried to ease her worry. “Mom, you saw blood back there, why weren’t you scared?”
In the dark carriage with the rain coming down, Xu Ping Jun’s mind went back in time. “One time, I saw even more blood then this. I even saw heads flying. That time there was also a huge rainstorm. I was pregnant with you and was captured by bad guys. Your Auntie, to save your mom and you…..”
With the sound of the rain as accompaniment, Xu Ping Jun recounted the story with tears in her eyes as the carriage traveled from the present to the past.
Because someone invaded Ping Ling at night, Liu Xun was waiting for news in the Palace. He knew the Empress and Crown Prince had left the Palace before their carriage even passed the gates. He also knew Yun Ge was severely injured. Liu Xun calmly acknowledged the news and went back to bed, sleeping soundly in a few minutes.
Beside him, Huo Cheng Jun couldn’t sleep at all. She wanted to get up but didn’t dare. She could only close her eyes and feign sleep. She didn’t even dare turn her body around. Finally dawn arrived and Liu Xun went to Court. She quickly sent someone to get the latest news and the person brought back the best news she could hope for.
“The royal physicians stayed by her bedside all night but she remains unconscious and her fever won’t break. I asked an old royal physician and he said that if she keeps burning up, even if she doesn’t die she’ll become an idiot.”
Huo Cheng Jun wanted to contain her laughter but she couldn’t and finally she burst out laughing, Before she was done another great news came to her. “Your Highness, Lord Meng apparently is severely ill and could not attend Court this morning. The Emperor is very worried and sent someone to check on him.”
Huo Cheng Jun worriedly asked “He’s really sick?”
The maid nodded “Really sick. The Great General Huo also went to check on him and reported back and he’s very sick and it’s serious. His entire face is as white as snow and his mental state is not quite lucid. Apparently when the Emperor told him that his wife invaded the Imperial Tomb last night and is currently teetering on the brink of death, he almost fainted.”
Huo Cheng Jun tamped down her lips to contain her glee. Yun Ge, Yun Ge! You did exactly what you vowed to do! The two of you mutually tormenting each other!
“Miss…..” Her maid suddenly changing the way she addressed her, Huo Cheng Jun knew what she wanted and ordered all the other servants out. When they were alone, the maid wondered why after so many years in the Palace she has never conceived while the Empress is on her second child and other Consorts have also bore children for the Emperor.
All of Huo Cheng Jun’s happy thoughts were wiped clean instantaneously. She threw all the food on the table on the ground and ordered the maid out.
Huo Cheng Jun proceeded to destroy her room and she thought back to every thing that could be done to help her conceive, she tried it over the years. Anything from touching a rock shaped like a man’s part to drinking the urine of a virgin boy to trying every medicinal herb under the sun.
[Yun Ge gave Liu Xun a medicine to slip into Huo Cheng Jun’s food that will keep her from conceiving, like ancient birth control.]
As a woman she cannot even do the most basic thing such as get pregnant. Her father’s coldness, her mother’s derision, the pressure of the entire family resting on her. The other Consorts scorn, all the weird looks from the maids…..
How dare Xu Ping Jun have yet another child……… Huo Cheng Jun thought those people might drive her crazy!
“I will have a child. I will…..” As she muttered she continued to trash everything in her room.
Xu Ping Jun knew deep down that something must’ve happened between Meng Jue and Yun Ge, otherwise Yun Ge wouldn’t invade Ping Ling in the middle of the night. She didn’t want to take Yun Ge back to the Meng Estate, but it wasn’t suitable to bring her into the Palace. She suddenly thought of the old house she used to live with Yun Ge that was still empty. She sent Liu Shi back to the Palace and she took Yun Ge to the old house and summoned the royal physicians there.
The three royal physicians sat beside Yun Ge all night in the inner bedroom. She ordered a cot placed in the outer room and she rested there so she could keep watch over Yun Ge. Everytime she got up, the royal physicians would shake their heads at her so she could only quietly go sit back down.
The rain outside was getting smaller and was turning into a light pitter patter. In the dark night the sound was like an old man telling a story. She strained to hear but couldn’t hear clearly, only feeling the sadness of the tale from the sound.
Xu Ping Jun carefully looked at every nook and cranny of this house, it was exactly like it used to be. The bamboo cup on the bookshelf, the Go board in the corner, the zither on the pallet, and also the panel to the side…..
She remembered Meng Jue sitting in front of the pallet, dressed in all-white, playing the zither under the moonlight.
She remembered when Liu Bing Yi (Liu Xun’s former name) made the panel and he laughed “This panel is so well made. I am loathed to send it to Qi Li Xiang.” Yun Ge stuck her head out of the kitchen “Then don’t send it there, let me keep it. Tomorrow we can drink and write poems on it.”
The tree in the yard, during the Summer the four of them would place a table under there and eat and enjoy the breeze. Sometimes Bing Yi and Meng Jue would be so absorbed in their discussions that he would send her next door to bring back more wine.
“Ping Jun, go home and bring back more wine.” She furrowed her brows “You still want to drink? This time I didn’t make much that much wine, we still need to sell it……” He drunkenly acted all huffy towards her and said “I am the man of the house and if I tell you to go get it, you go! Go!” But his gestures were like a kid wheedling a parent and begging for affection as he grabbed her by the shoulder and gently rocked her back and forth.
Yun Ge stood off to the side stifling her laughter. Meng Jue reached for his money but could find none so he reached over and grabbed a hair piece off Yun Ge’s head and tossed it to her “Exchange this for the wine!”
This time it was she who stifled a laugh as she shot Yun Ge a look.
The happy chatter and the easy laughter, those sounds reverberated in Xu Ping Jun’s ears. Xu Ping Jun thought she really saw them in front of her and she couldn’t help herself and stood up with a smile and walked towards them. Right when she was about to sit down she realized she was standing in an empty courtyard and all that was around her was the morning sun shining through the branches. The sharp sunlight hit her eyes and made her want to cry.
She stood underneath the tree and couldn’t understand it. Rain, it stopped. Morning, it came. Yun Ge, she was still not awake. And everything…… they could not go back anymore!
The three royal physicians faced her with exhausted faces to beg forgiveness “Your servants, we, did everything we could. It’s not that we are not good doctors, it’s that Mrs. Meng’s body is refusing the medicine.”
Xu Ping Jun didn’t blame them, thanking them and sending them away. She summoned a servant to go fetch Meng Jue. One was that he was a unparallel doctor, the other was to figure out what happened. It appeared Yun Ge’s physical injury was just one part of the problem. Only by knowing what the root of the illness was could it be treated.
When Xu Ping Jun saw Meng Jue sitting in that wheelchair, she couldn’t believe her eyes and kept shaking her head. The handsome debonair Meng Jue, in one night, wasted away to this! Her bellyful of questions all vanished “Meng dage, didn’t you and Yun Ge patch up? I heard she was learning medicine from you. But now….what illness did you contract? Why can’t you even walk?”
Meng Jue said nothing and Ba Yue, who was wheeling him, couldn’t control herself and said “Master isn’t sick, he still has poison in him. Plus his worries attacked the heart and he can’t calm down to heal properly. That is why he is so weak.”
Xu Ping Jun asked in shock “Poison? Who dared to poison you? Who could possibly succeed in poisoning you?”
Ba Yue was too scared to speak up again and she just lowered her face and controlled her anger. Meng Jue quietly said “You can leave now.” Ba Yue quietly left the room.
Xu Ping Jun thought but couldn’t figure it out. Meng Jue was brilliant and careful, plus an expert in medicine. Very few people existed who could poison him, much less someone who could poison him and he still kept quiet about it. The only person who caused Ba Yue and those servant girls such anger that they didn’t even dare express was only Yun Ge.
“Yun Ge, she…..she wouldn’t do such a thing. Maybe she was tricked.”
Fu Su’s sharp voice came from the door “Ms. Yun would never hurt anyone without good reason. But if it was someone who harmed the Emperor, then that’s another story.” Fu Su went to check on Yu An, who was already awake, and learned what had transpired. Right now he was so filled with rage he didn’t even care about propriety “Your Highness, please order Lord Meng to leave immediately. He also must not be allowed to treat Ms. Yun. Ms. Yun would rather die then let him save her life! The longer he stays, the more her life is in peril.”
Xu Ping Jun was dumbfounded and took her a moment to realize the Emperor that Fu Su was referring to was Liu Fu Ling and not Liu Xun. Once she processed the information her entire body shook. Liu Fu Ling was assassinated? Liu Fu Ling……assassinated?
She looked around and saw no one close by and she relaxed. She raised her voice at Fu Su “Do you know what you are talking about” Fu Su kneeled down but his head was now bowed and was staring at Meng Jue with intense hatred “I am not making up nonsense. Master Yu told me himself, Meng Jue used poison to assassinate the former Emperor. He also used Ms. Yun’s illness and snuck the poison in her medicine as well. He is so vicious. Ms. Yun must be so racked with guilt and rage she would rather die…..” Fu Su’s voice caught in his throat and he couldn’t speak anymore.
Xu Ping Jun saw Meng Jue’s face was ashen and he said not a word. She went from disbelieving to believing. Such a monumental thing, if Meng Jue didn’t do it, why wouldn’t he speak up and defend himself? When Meng Jue wanted to kill someone, he never thought twice, such as her former fiancee Ouhou’s death, or the death of Hei Zi and that gang….
Xu Ping Jun thought of Meng Jue’s ruthlessness, of Yun Ge at the brink of death. She controlled herself and said to Fu Su “Stop making up nonsense! Lord Meng is a respected member of Court, how could he do such a thing! The former Emperor died of natural illness and all the royal physicians can attest to it. If I ever hear you say such things again, I will punish you harshly!”
Xu Ping Jun then turned to Meng Jue and said respectfully “‘I’m sorry Lord Meng came all this way. My little sister is sick and cannot see guests. Fu Su, please bid farewell to our guest.” Fu Su realized what she said and jumped up and bowed extra respectfully “Lord Meng, after you!”
Meng Jue refused to leave and said “Ping Jun!” with a plead hidden in his voice. Xu Ping Jun ignored him and turned to Fu Su “You get more guards to protect this place. Do not let anyone in or out. If you don’t follow orders, I will punish you.” Fu Su happily said a loud yes and turned to push Meng Jue’s wheelchair out.
Meng Jue turned his head back to Xu Ping Jun “The royal physicians cannot help her. Let me see Yun Ge. If her fever doesn’t break, it will be too late. You don’t want to save her?”
Xu Ping Jun spit out each word carefully “If I let you get even one step closer to her, then that is what will kill her. From now on, Lord Meng is Lord Meng and Yun Ge is Yun Ge!”
As he was being pushed out, he used his strength to slow Fu Su down and said “You need to find out what herbs I used to harm…..then you can get angry.” He saw people outside and didn’t dare say more.
Fu Su pushed Meng Jue out and returned and kneeled before Xu Ping Jun “Your Highness, we can ask Dr. Chang, who once saved Yun Ge, to come treat her.” Xu Ping Jun nodded and then sighed “Yun Ge’s illness is not physical. Her back wound is not serious. It’s herself……” Xu Ping Jun didn’t dare finish the sentence, that she didn’t want to live anymore. Her heart hurt so much. A woman who has lost her husband, and then lost her child, after finally finding some peace, to learn that her husband was murdered and she was unknowingly embroiled in it and might have even been an unwitting accomplice….. If it was Xu Ping Jun, would she have the courage to open her eyes again?
Xu Ping Jun felt her heart was as heavy as lead and she asked “How did Meng Jue use Yun Ge?”
“Didn’t Ms. Yun have that chronic cough? Meng Jue made a very fragrant incense mixture for Ms. Yun back then. Later Ms. Yun found out that the smell could activate the latent poison in the former Emperor’s body…….Your Highness! Your Highness!”
In a split second Xu Ping Jun fainted and was awokened by Fu Su’s frantic calling. She opened her eyes but her breathing was ragged. The royal physician was summoned and chastised Fu Su “How did you take care of the Empress? How did you affect her baby? You…..you…..this might’ve harmed the mother and baby………….” He quickly settled Xu Ping Jun’s agitated state and ordered medicine brewed for her.
When Xu Ping Jun regained alertness, her eyes were empty and she was lifeless. Fu Su started crying “Your Highness, please don’t think about those things. Ms. Yun will be fine. You will be fine. You are both such good people. The Heavens won’t be blind.”
Xu Ping Jun weakly said “Go to the Meng Estate and get Meng Jue, I want to see him.” Fu Su was stunned and Xu Ping Jun softly said “Hurry, and don’t be disrespectful to him.” Fu Su wiped his tears and took off, but once out of the room he saw Meng Jue sitting in his wheelchair in the courtyard. His face was white and his body was leaning on the side of the wheelchair. His eyes were closed like he was resting or listening.
Fu Su took a few steps and he heard the sound and knew the reason. He told Ba Yue “You stay outside and wait for me. I’ll go inside alone.” Fu Su was shocked but went up and pushed his wheelchair into the room. Xu Ping Jun ordered him outside to keep guard and make sure no one entered.
Meng Jue pushed his wheelchair over to take Xu Ping Jun’s pulse but she pushed him away and coldly said “Since you harmed Liu Fu Ling, why did you later pretend to treat him?”
Meng Jue’s face was devoid of blood and he wearily said “Doesn’t matter if you believe me, but I can tell you that while I did think about killing Liu Fu Ling, but if I wanted to kill him I would have a multitude of ways. I would never have involved Yun Ge in it.” Meng Jue’s voice was filled with disdain “The incense mix I made for Yun Ge was really medicine for her cough. At that time, I didn’t know Liu Fu Ling had the poison already inside him. The fact that his poison was activate by my incense mix was truly pure coincidence.”
Xu Ping Jun’s eyes looked elsewhere and her voice was a tiny as a mosquito “Who poisoned the former Emperor?’
“My guess is Huo Guang. And whether others were involved, no one will ever know. Those people are likely long ago dispatched by Huo Guang to see Liu Che (in Hell).”
“How could it have been done. How hard was it to poison an Emperor. His food and clothing was all carefully inspected, and every drop of water was tasted first. Yu An was so loyal, how could Huo Guang have poisoned him?”
Meng Jue explained “Huo Guang’s method, it’s also the first I have ever heard of it. Not sure which master tactician gave him the idea to create such a seamless web. He planted a mountainside of flowers call “Fox Trap”. It’s flower is deadly poisonous and can cause a person’s heart to stop. In that mountain there is also a wild flower called the “Iron Kiss”, which can cause the breathing to stop. These flowers grew wildly on the mountainside and no one would spare them a second glance. This mountain had a lot of rivers and the poison from those plants seeped into the water stream and down into the lake at the bottom of the mountain. It was such minute amounts that even if we drank that water for months on end, nothing would happen to us and our body would expel the trace amounts naturally. But….if we drank that water year in and year out regularly, in ten years, in twenty years, with our body naturally aging, perhaps one day the poison would affect the body. We would probably die faster than a person who never drank that water. Like when we hear of an entire village affected with a strange illness, it’s usually caused by an abundance of a trigger nearby.”
Xu Ping Jun was still perplexed “But the Emperor and the Empress, and all the Consorts, they all drank the same water. If Huo Guang used this method, wouldn’t everyone be poisoned in the long run?”
Meng Jue explained further “So that is why I said Huo Guang’s method was seamless. His poison method was one step more clever. I investigated Liu Fu Ling’s daily habits and he loved to eat fish. That lake had a lot of fish which looked healthy but also carried minute traces of the poison. A person eating fish occasionally would be fine, but Liu Fu Ling had been eating that “diseased” fish since he was 8 years old. His body was slowly becoming infected. Without my incense as the trigger, he would probably be attacked by the poison in about 5 more years. Because of my incense, it activated his latent poison early. Otherwise in 5 years when his body sickened, no one would ever suspect it was poison. Especially since all the poison tasters were all fine.”
Xu Ping Jun murmured “Because there were many poison tasters, so the amount they ingested was less than Liu Fu Ling.” Meng Jue nodded “That’s right. So even if today we stand before Huo Guang and accuse him of poison, we have no proof. He would drink the water and eat the fish to show us there was no poison.”
Xu Ping Jun started to shiver “What did Huo Guang want? Didn’t he know that the Empire belonged to the Liu family. Even if he killed Liu Fu Ling, he would never be able to ascend the throne. If he tried, the Infante Dukes would rise up and take him down.”
“My guess is that he never wanted to be Emperor in name, he wanted to be the real power behind the scenes. If Liu Fu Ling was easy for him to control, he could easily cut off poisoning the fish and water. If he wasn’t easy to control, then when Liu Fu Ling turned 25 his body would start to deteriorate and he would grow sick and die. At that time, Liu Fu Ling would likely have a son with Shang Guan Xiao Mei, and the new Emperor would be a child and Huo Guang could control him because the child carried Huo family bloodlines. Huo Guang could use his grandson to rule the Empire and the Infante Dukes would have no excuse to remove him.”
“Liu Xun….did he know about what Huo Guang did?” Xu Ping Jun’s entire body was shaking. She knew how powerful Huo Guang was but she didn’t know he was that horrifying that he could start poisoning a 8 year old child and plot to take over the Empire in 20 years. What kind of foresight and planning did that take? No wonder Shang Guan Jie and Xan Hong Yang both ended up dead. How could they ever hope to best such a vicious, cold, and methodical person. No wonder Liu Xun, despite knowing the dangers, insisted on making Liu Shi the Crown Prince right away.
Meng Jue softly answered “Yes.”
Xu Ping Jun tried to talk many times but no words came out. Finally she forced herself to stammer “I…..the satchel I gave Yun Ge……was there a problem with it?”
Meng Jue was leaning on the wheelchair and said in a calm voice “Not only did it have a problem, it had a huge problem! Liu Fu Ling’s poison was activated by my incense but that was a blessing in disguise. In 2 or 3 years it would be too late to treat him. By getting sick then, and I accidentally discovered the root of his illness and found the way to cure him, in truth most of the poison in his body I had already managed to push out. But he was poisoned over such a long period of time, so his body was weak and there was still some lingering poison that would need some more time to fully expel. But since I had the cure, within 2 or 3 years he would be fully cured and completely healthy. At that time, his body was going through the process of exchanging clean blood for the poisoned blood. When Liu Xun had you make the the satchel and sent it to Yun Ge, it suppressed all the clean blood and activated the residual poison in his body. After that………there was nothing I could do to save him.”
After hearing Meng Jue’s words, Xu Ping Jun’s eyes were wide open and tears rolled down her face. She silently collapsed into her blanket. “Why didn’t you explain to Yun Ge?”
“I have no courage that she will believe me. Plus…..what’s more important is that……….if I explained I would have to reveal Liu Xun’s involvement. This is a huge concern since I worry for Yun Ge’s life. If she knew that all the fish she cooked for Liu Fu Ling and encouraged him to eat, how do you think she will feel. Will she feel better than she does now? Many things, sometimes its best never to know in this lifetime. If I wasn’t pushed to the brink by you today keeping me from Yun Ge, I would never have told you.”
Xu Ping Jun was filled with so many conflicting emotions “Meng Jue, if you told the former Emperor or Yun Ge earlier, that his poison was accidentally activated by your incense, perhaps he would never have died. Even if Liu Xun sent them the satchel, they would not have gotten near it to harm him.”
Meng Jue was stunned and didn’t have an answer for that.
Xu Ping Jun kept crying but her voice was now very cold and eerily calm. “I’m entrusting Yun Ge to you. You have to save her! I’m going back to the Palace.” She got up and avoided Meng Jue’s help and called for Fu Su.
“Ping Jun, why don’t you let Fu Su take you somewhere else for a few days. Or maybe go back to your parental home……”
“Home?” Did she ever have a home? Xu Ping Jun held on to Fu Su’s arm and walked out. She announced “If I don’t return to Wei Yang Palace, where else can I go?”
The Summer sun was the brightest and warmest but she was cold to the bone. In her eyes she could only see gray without any shred of light or warmth. So this is what it feels to be used by the person you love the most. So this is what it feels to have harmed the person you are closest to. So this is the feeling of utter despair. So this is what it feels like to wish for death over the pain of living.
Since she was small, she didn’t have a real home. She thought if she worked hard enough to make her mom happy, she would have a home. But no matter what she did, her mother never looked at her. She thought Liu Bing Yi could give her a home. With his bright smile, she could find warmth. She did everything she could to land him, thinking that with him beside her, she would have a home. But she was wrong. Wei Yang Palace was definitely not a home. But at least she once experienced that warmth and she thought she could stay in Shu Fang Pavilion remembering all the happy memories. But she was wrong yet again. It turned out that all those happy memories were all her wishful thinking.
She didn’t want to see Liu Xun again. And she had no face to see Yun Ge. In an instant she lost everything she had. Or perhaps the truth was that she never had it to begin with. Where could she go? What place would allow her to rest?
After the Empress and Fu Su left along with the royal physicians and servants, Ba Yue knocked on the door and entered when there was no answer. She saw Meng Jue sitting next to Yun Ge’s bed in a daze. Maybe because he was still sick, he looked unusually weary and his brow was tightly furrowed.
Ba Yue was initially still angry at Yun Ge, but seeing her face bright red with fever and her mouth stark white, her body covered in bruises, and her arm outside the blanket was so thin it appeared to be breakable upon a single touch, all her anger went away. She walked over “Master, do you need some medicine. I’ll have Jiu Yue get some.”
“She’s got a superficial back injury and the medicine prescribed by the royal physicians is the best there is. We need to try something different. Ba Yue, go back to the estate and in Yun Ge’s room, there is a purple jade flute. Bring it here.”
Ba Yue hurried home to get the flute but couldn’t understand how the flute could have anything do with saving Yun Ge’s life. Meng Jue took the flute in his hands and gave it a once over, his face breaking into a bitter and sad smile.
He faced the window and started to play. The moment he started to play, it was like the moon started its ascent in the sky as the flowers were blooming. The entire room was blanketed in a feeling of serenity.
The afternoon sun was shining through the windows and Meng Jue’s vivid facial features glittered gold in the light. With a warm Summer breeze coming in through the window, Meng Jue’s black hair billowed in the wind and his sleek long fingers danced over the flute but was so white it was almost translucent. But his dark eyes were filled with warmth and deep emotion.
Ba Yue walked out to the courtyard and closed the door. This type of deep love and pleading, even not understanding music she understood it. Even if Yun Ge was asleep she must sense it!
Ba Yue felt this tune was familiar but she never heard Master play it before. Sitting on the door jam listening for some time, she suddenly remembered where she heard it. Yun Ge often played this tune in her room on star-filled nights. And she seemed to also use this flute. But her tune was so sorrowful and heavy, whereas Master’s version was calm and peaceful. That is why it took her some time to make the connection. Then Ba Yue’s heart started to hurt. This flute had a seal carved at the end, it was the symbol of the late Emperor Zhao of Han Liu Fu Ling. The tune Yun Ge played must be one that he often played when he was alive. With Master so arrogant and proud, to save Yun Ge he actually was willing to use Liu Fu Ling’s flute and play the tune Liu Fu Ling used to play for Yun Ge.
No one knew whether Yun Ge heard this tine or not. Meng Jue didn’t appear to care as he sat by the window and kept playing, never once turning around to look at her. He just sat there and played the tine over and over again.
From the afternoon sun to the evening dusk, from the dark night until the sunrise, he kept playing the same tune over and over again.
Time appeared to be reflected in him. The righteousness of the light golden hue in the early afternoon, the loneliness of the coming dusk, the arrogant coldness of the moonlight, the steadfastness of the darkest night, the exhaustion of the early morning dawn.
The sky, it grew bright, then dark. The changing of the light appeared to remind Meng Jue of his entire life. No matter when, no matter what, he was always alone. Alone in the changing of the dark and the light, searching for the speck of brightness as he walked in the desolate empty world.
When the bright sun once again shone through the window, suddenly he tripped over a note and a spurt of blood spilled from his lips and slid down the purple jade flute and landed on his white robe. He paid it no heed and continued to play the flute. After some time, the tune skipped and then continued again.
Ba Yue, waiting in the courtyard, rushed inside and saw Meng Jue with blood on his lips. “Master, stop playing!” She wanted to grab the flute but Meng Jue’s eyes stopped her. She turned towards the pallet and looked at Yun Ge “The fever broke! Master…….” She turned around with tears in her eyes and saw that Meng Jue finally stopped and turned around to look at Yun Ge.
His face was stark white and his lips were bright red. The purple jade flute in his hand was covered with blood that its original color couldn’t be seen anymore. His expression was so odd, seemingly relieved, seemingly saddened.
He stopped and looked at Yun Ge for quite some time before wearily leaning back in the wheelchair and closing his eyes. Ba Yue saw his lips move but couldn’t hear his word so leaned in “……back to the estate. Ask Dr. Chang to treat Yun Ge. Don’t mention I was here. Just say…..the royal physicians saved Yun Ge.” Ba Yue was so angry that he wasn’t staying to see the person he discarded his pride and risked his life to save.
“Master, you….aren’t waiting for your lady wife to wake up?”
Meng Jue had no more strength to talk and merely raised his finger. Ba Yue saw his face turning blue and quickly quieted and pushed him out of the room.