Eunuch Lin immediately comes to his master’s defense, “The Prime Minister must not speak thoughtlessly. His Majesty did not touch his concubines because he puts too much importance in feelings, because he has not met anyone he likes.”
“There are 3000 beauties inside the palace, each beautiful in their own ways. How come not even one of them managed to attract him? Something must be really wrong with him. Oh right, why are you standing here? Is the emperor asleep? It is still too early!” Chu Ling Xiao finally sensed something off.
Eunuch Lin sighs, “His Majesty is in a bad mood. He kicked us all out and drinks all by himself inside.”
“Him? Drinking? Hahaha, am I hearing this wrong? He is a very controlled person in both bed and drinking matters. He never drinks unless he has to, mostly in palace’s banquets. Something must have really gone wrong. Let me check him out,” Chu Ling Xiao walks into the room in anticipation.
Jun Qian Che is sitting in front of a table while drinking, he looks fairly drunk. There is a bitter smile on his lips as he downs cups after cups of wine.
Chu Ling Xiao sits next to him, looking stunned, “Your Majesty, you are drinking wine like it is water.”
Jun Qian Che glances at him icily, “Why are you here?”
Chu Ling Xiao shrugs, “I thought you looked off these past few days, so I came to take a look. Why are you drinking in sorrow here? Did you fight with the empress?”
His hand pauses for a moment upon the mentioning of Mo Qi Qi before he continues drinking.
Seeing his reaction, Chu Ling Xiao pours himself a cup, “Since Your Majesty wants to drink, this official will drink with you.”
After 3 cups and noticing that Jun Qian Che has gotten tipsier, Chu Ling Xiao curiously asks, “Did something happened, Your Majesty?”
Jun Qian Che laughs bitterly, “Ling Xiao, do you think zhen is pitiful?”
“Pitiful? Are you joking, Your Majesty? Everything under the sky belongs to you. You only need to wave your hand to get what you want. If you are pitiful, everyone else are worse.”
“You are right, zhen can get everything that zhen wants with a simple command. Everything, everything but her heart.” Jun Qian Che laughs bitterly as he downs another cup. The bitter taste of the wine is nothing compared to the one in his heart.
“Are you talking about the empress, Your Majesty? Did you two fight?” He thought the emperor does not care for the empress…
“Fight? Zhen can only wish so. She tries too hard in front of zhen, she has become too cautious. It makes zhen really angry.” The grip he has on the cup tightens.
Chu Ling Xiao looks at the cup in his hand, he looks like he is going to break it, “You are the emperor, which woman wouldn’t try hard and be cautious in front of you? Do you want her to fight with you everyday in front of everyone?”
“She is not any other woman; she is zhen’s wife, zhen’s empress. The one whom zhen will hold hands with until zhen dies. Our road is still long ahead of us. Zhen only wants her to be honest in front of zhen, to be the person she really is. Seeing her acting that way makes zhen feels tired on her behalf.”
Chu Ling Xiao finds it hard to believe that those emotional words are coming from Jun Qian Che’s mouth. That ice block has fallen in love?
Mo Qi Qi actually has the ability to break his façade.
“You must have drank too much, Your Majesty. You are actually saying such touching words.”
“Zhen have always thought that zhen knows her; zhen believed in what zhen could see. Only now did zhen realized that maybe zhenhad misunderstood her. What the eyes could see and the ears could hear might not always be the truth.”
He suddenly remembers what she said to him in the viewing tower, “Your Majesty, please listen to chenqie’s explanation. Someone has trapped chenqie, chenqie has never wronged you!”
“You cheap woman, you actually dared to betray zhen? Do you think zhen is blind?”
“What are you laughing at?”
“Who exactly is the one who betrayed whom between the two of us? We have been married for two years, but how have you treated me? You have never stayed with me. There is only that lowly Yang Shi Han in your heart!”
“Mo Qi Qi, you are arrogant, overbearing, jealous, totally unworthy of your position as the mother of the nation. Zhen accommodated you, turning a blind eye at everything you have done. You know that zhenis the ruler of the kingdom, zhen cannot be monogamous.”
“No, I don’t! Why must I dedicate my heart and soul for you if you won’t do the same for me? If you dislike me so much, why did you marry me? Was it because you wanted to borrow my father’s military power so that you could ascend the throne peacefully?” she finally gathered up the courage to ask him the question that she feared the most.
He did not answer her, silently acknowledging it.
“Hahaha, so it was only wishful thinking on my part! You have never loved me! Jun Qian Che, I hate you! I want to humiliate you! I will make you the biggest laughingstock in the world!”
Jun Qian Che laughs bitterly when he remembers that incident: he always thought he could read people, but turns out he couldn’t read her. He misunderstood her, she really was innocent.
“Your Majesty, have you fallen in love with the empress?” Chu Ling Xiao directly asks.
“Love?” Jun Qian Che laughs mockingly. “Zhen will never fall for any woman, much less one who comes from Mo Clan. Zhen only feels guilty, that is all.”
Chu Ling Xiao laughs while shaking his head, “You will never fall in love with her or you don’t have the guts to? I’m afraid, you know that better than anyone else. Things like love and emotion have never been clear anyway. Let’s drink!”
Although alcohol makes one even more sorrowful, at least it can temporarily help them forget their problem.
The next day, Feng Yang Palace’s door is finally opened again. Mo Qi Qi gathers herself up to face a brand new day.
She is not the type that dwells in sorrow, so she gathers up her courage to face what is ahead of her.
When the rest of the concubines find out that the empress is now willing to meet them, they rush to Feng Yang Palace in worry.
“Your Ladyship, we were so worried when we heard that you refused to meet anyone. We thought something has happened!”
“Right! Right! Did you fight with His Majesty, Your Ladyship?”
Mo Qi Qi who is sitting on the phoenix seat looks at them as they speak. She used to find them troublesome and noisy. She was only nice to them because she didn’t want them to conspire against her. But now, she finds them warm and fulfilling. It doesn’t matter if they are being real or are only feigning concern, chatting with them makes her happy. No matter what, they are all pitiful in their own ways. They are so young and are forced to enter the palace to keep their families safe. They have to tread on thin ice. If they receive favour, they will become the subject of another’s envy. If they don’t receive favour, they will be ridiculed by everyone, including servants. Being in their spots are not easy. She can be considered a little lucky compared to them.
“Thank you for your concerns, sisters. Bengong just needed a little rest, that is all,” Mo Qi Qi smiles as she looks at them.
The concubines laugh, “As long as you are fine, Your Ladyship. We thought you and the emperor had a big fight. You refused to meet anyone for a couple of days while His Majesty seems so busy that he hadn’t had time to meet Yang Shi Han. You must not fight with His Majesty, Your Ladyship. You will only end up pushing him to Yang Shi Han. At the end of the day, you will be the one suffering a loss.”
“Chun Fei is right, Your Ladyship! You must try and get along with His Majesty. With your beauty and your background, Yang Shi Han will never catch up to you!”
“True! Yang Shi Han always thought she is pretty, but honestly, you are a lot prettier than her!”
Mo Qi Qi laughs, “Enough. Let’s not talk about unpleasant things. A few days have passed, bengong is curious about meimeis’ yoga and dancing skills.”
The concubines smile happily, “The dances and the yoga that you taught us are really good. We feel so refreshed!”
“Bengong is glad that all of you like it. Today, bengong would like to teach all of you a new set of skill.” Mo Qi Qi purposely tries to sound mysterious.
Everyone listens to her curiously, “What is it, Your Ladyship?”
“Bengong is going to teach you a special kind of virtue: singing.” She looks at the concubines who are dressed beautifully. She nods in satisfaction. “Let’s go to the courtyard to dance and sing together.”
“Let’s go! Let’s go!”
They follow Mo Qi Qi outside.
After the morning court ends, Jun Qian Che finds out that Feng Yang Palace has opened it’s door once more.
There is this inexplicable excitement in him. He goes to Feng Yang Palace directly without taking his breakfast. He just wants to see if she is doing okay. Remembering what happened that night, his heart is filled with remorse.
He can hear the sound of laughter as he stands outside Feng Yang Palace’s gate.
Eunuch Lin wants to announce his arrival, but he stops him.
Eunuch Lin asks him curiously, “Aren’t you going in, Your Majesty?”
“No. They are playing happily, do not bother her,” Jun Qian Che rests his gaze on Mo Qi Qi. She is looking at everyone while smiling brightly. Even the sun pales in comparison to that smile. Who would have thought that she would be playing so happily with the concubines that she used to regard as her enemies? Why is it so? It is because her heart is not longer how it used to be. A woman will not be jealous if she does not love that man. Mo Qi Qi, what should zhen do with you?
Mo Qi Qi is looking at the concubines happily, “Meimeis must have worked so hard with your dancings, these past few days. Bengong is very happy. The emperor will be touched if he knows this. Next, bengong would like to teach all of you a song called, ‘The Most Romantic Thing’!
‘Back to back, sitting on a rug,
Listening to music, talking about our dreams
I hope, you will be even softer and gentler over time,
And you hope that you are the one in my heart,
I said I wanted to give you a romantic dream,
Thank you for taking me to paradise,
I am not afraid if it will take my whole life,
I cherish every moment with you,
I know what the most romantic thing is,
It is to grow old with you,
Smiling along the journey,
From walking, to sitting on a rocking chair, just talking,
I know what the most romantic thing is,
It is to grow old with you,
Until we both have grey hair, and we can no longer walk,
I still want for you to be the treasure of my heart.’”
(TN: The credit for the translation of the lyrics is here.)
Something stirs inside Jun Qian Che’s heart as he listens to her song. He wonders how it will be like if they grow old together.
Impossible. Mo Clan will have to go, sooner or later. He and Mo Qi Qi will become enemies in the future. He knows all that, so why did he even bother imagining what could have been?
He shakes his head and turns around to walk away. Now that he has seen her, his heart is at peace.
“Your Majesty—-“ he bumps into Qiu Fei who has just arrived. She didn’t think that her tardiness would result to her accidentally meeting the emperor. She has a hard time hiding her delight, “Greeting, Your Majesty.”
Qiu Fei’s voice attracts the attention of everyone inside the courtyard. They turn to the entrance and are shocked to find the emperor there. They run over to him and surround him, “Your Majesty—-“
Jun Qian Che wants to cry. Everyone envies him for having 3000 beauties, but to him, they are all troublesome.
He turns around and looks at the courtyard again.
Mo Qi Qi is still standing at her original spot, smiling mockingly while shaking her head.
He opens his mouth coldly, “Zhen has something to say to the empress. All of you should retreat first.”