(TN: Please do note that this chapter takes us back to the present time.)
Yi Wang’s shizi got drunk and trampled on commoner’s crops with his horse. The other officials wanted him impeached. Feng Zhao Wen ordered the rascal to face reformation in the countryside. 3 months later, I had the chance to witness his return with my own eyes.
(TN: shizi (世子) means first-born, or heir apparent.)
A tanned young man was kneeling in the middle of Zhong Hua Palace while knocking his head on the floor, “Your Majesty, I was wrong. Please do not punish me to the countryside again. I had to eat food for dogs and pigs, it is too hard. Imperial cousin……”
E Huang secretly whispered something to my ear, “Shizi seemed to have changed a lot. His skin has sagged and his eyes have turned sallow. All the mamas said that alcohol has been drained out of his body.”
When I first knew her, this girl had a small gut. Who would have known that once we warmed up to each other, she would share everything she knew to me, and she knew a lot. She was petite and was maintaining a timid appearance, but it was only for show.
We were hiding behind a windscreen to watch the show. Yi Wang was crying while pointing at his son in exasperation, “It is you who didn’t learn well, you darn child! His Majesty’s punishment is already light. You should have stayed there for the rest of your life as a lesson; farming is not an easy thing to do.”
E Huang speaks again, “Yi Wang is only saying this for the sake of saying. I heard he only has this one son. He dotes on him so much, everything his son wants he gives. His son has many concubines in the manor, but he always runs off to brothels anyway, bringing other nobles and relatives with him in his excursion. The wangfei got angered to the point of sickness so many times. She has now dedicated her entire life to praying and has left the manor’s management to the side consorts.”
Feng Zhao Wen’s eyes were stern, “Zhen think it is better to follow what imperial uncle said; shizi should stay in the countryside for a couple more months.”
Yi Wang’s obese body trembled, his heart must have ached for his child.
His son wiped his tears while crying, continuing to kowtow repeatedly. Feng Zhao Wen massaged his temple, looking very impatient, “Get up, imperial uncle.”
Yi Wang got up obediently and stood in the sideline in silence.
I heard the late emperor of the Great Qi had around 7 or 8 imperial brothers. When Feng Zhao Wen was only the Crown Prince, those uncles had been eyeing the throne with bated breath. However, when the previous emperor died, Feng Zhao Wen inherited the throne right from his hand and then proceed to either demote or kill each and every capable uncles he had. The common people were full of praises for Feng Zhao Wen; the people on the imperial clan however would get anxious at the sound of his name.
He was very firm; able to give out punishments or rewards without bias. No officials dared to get cocky after receiving a reward from him.
Feng Zhao Wen’s expression loosened a little, looking a lot more affable towards Yi Wang, “Imperial uncle, the imperial clan was haughty and extravagant in the previous dynasty. Now that our land has turned vast, the imperial clan should have set an example to the common people. Zhen heard the number of concubines in imperial cousin’s manor is comparable to zhen’s harem.”
The father and son’s foreheads became sweaty. They helped each other walk as they head out of the palace. A eunuch followed them from behind, carrying the things Feng Zhao Wen bestowed them.
Once the silhouette of the pair disappeared, Feng Zhao Wen speaks up, “Seen enough? Come out!”
E Huang shrank her body and hid behind me, putting on that timid and innocent servant appearance again. She respectfully bowed, “Miss, His Majesty is calling for you.”
I walked out from behind the screen in slow steps. When I reached him, he pulled me into his chest. He touched the calluses in my hands with a sympathetic expression, “Did you had a hard time while you were away from zhen?”
I finally knew how to function in this environment. Had I not been quick in Jin Xiu Pavilion back then, I would have lost my hand from his arrow. I laughed as I nodded my head, looking very earnest, “I could not eat properly, my life was truly hard!”
He looked very comforted!
Making an emperor happy was his subject’s responsibility; prisoners included.
My new life began after I escaped into the sea of stars and ended like a devoured chicken’s feet. No need to even say how hard it was. At the end of everything, I had an enlightenment: those scholars from previous dynasties who claimed to live a hermit life must have not been poor. They must have had money to hire a servant to manage the house while they work on their masterpieces. They must have also had lands that were taken care of by other people so they could idle around, eat to their delight before lifting their brushes to condemn the government.
As for second generation officials like me who had never tasted the peasant’s food and wore peasant’s clothes, not dying of hunger was already a fortunate thing. How could I even have the spare money to buy ink and brushes?
Even if I wrote a complain back then, nobody would have cared.
Because of that, I was truly grateful towards Feng Zhao Wen. Even though he was akin to a hunter and I was a prey that was trapped in his cage, because of him I questioned my Father’s teaching for the first time of my life. He once told me that even if I got old, I would still have my skills. If I could not be a general, I could always be a hunter. He taught me everything he could so I could be self-sufficient. Look at how that ended for me!
At the end of the day, it would be better if I simply stayed in this cage obediently.
One day in the sixth month, Feng Zhao Wen returned to Zhong Hua Palace with a couple of physicians. After thoroughly checking me, those physicians gathered in one corner and whispered amongst one another. I was truly unhappy with the way they treated me. I pulled out my neck, trying to eavesdrop on their conversation. Feng Zhao Wen who was in the middle of them, talking about who knows what suddenly turned around and expressionlessly glanced at me, “Try to eavesdrop again and your ears will be cut off.”
I unconsciously covered my ears. One of the younger physicians in the group lightly laughed at me. The older ones pretended they couldn’t see me.
After that, E Huang would bring me tonics during my three meals.
My mind had broadened nowadays; other than my status in the palace, I felt as though I had made a great circle and had returned to my old life in the palace. Whenever Feng Zhao Wen had free time, he would stroll around the palace with me. Everytime I remembered the things of my past, I would share it with him and we would laugh together.
Once, we stumbled upon the beautiful and delicate Consort De. Seeing the dumbfounded expression on her face, I could not help but speak, “Your Majesty, you should keep Consort De company if you have free time!” Feng Zhao Wen was furious and grabbed me by the hand as we went past Consort De who was looking at me in gratitude. He brought me back to Zhong Hua Palace in a speed faster than the wind.
The tonic I received that night was particularly bitter.
I drank a mouthful and almost threw it back out. I frowned as I asked E Huang, “How many yellow lotuses did you put in here? Why is it so bitter?”
I was just casually asking, I did not expect any kind of answer from E Huang, “The tonic tonight was personally brewed by His Majesty. Eunuch Tian had to personally run back and forth to the physician’s department in order to make this.” When she saw me wanting to pour the medicine out, she quickly kneeled in front of me, “Kind-hearted Miss, His Majesty personally ordered this servant to watch you drink this up. If you do not, this servant’s head will fly.”
I bitterly stared at E Huang, “What does your head had anything to do with me?”
She froze as she stared at me pitifully.
I raised my head and drank half of the bowl. It was so bitter that I was shivering from the taste. She stepped forward, intending to take the bowl away. Looking at the last mouthful of tonic that was left on the bowl, I shook my head. “You can retreat. I still need to use this bowl.”
Later on, when Feng Zhao Wen returned to Zhong Hua Palace and had finished bathing and cleaning himself, I stared at him who was lying on the bed. I got on the bed and massaged his body. He was initially straight-faced, but once I massaged him, his face turned a lot gentler.
I was secretly delighted. I put out my lips and he unhesitantly gave me a kiss. Then, I fed him the bitter tonic straight from my mouth. His Majesty was a strong and powerful person, but even he ended up spraying that tonic off.
He glared at me, “You…… You………”
I ran quite fast, so all the tonic ended up being sprayed straight into the yellow bedding.
I deftly ran off and pour a cup of tea to rinse my mouth. “So bitter!”
He stared at me. When he realized that I wasn’t going to care for him, he got up from the bed and poured his own cup to rinse his mouth. When he looked at the dirty bed, he called Tian Bing Qing in.
When Tian Bing Qing walked in and saw the tonic’s stain on the bed, he looked at me with eyes filled with admiration. After the maids who worked under him finished changing the bedding, he walked out with his shoulders shaking.
I thought his neck was about to fall from the intensity of his shaking.
I was truly worried about him, so I followed him from behind. When I reached the door of the palace, a sinister voice speaks up, “It is so late, aren’t you going to bed?”
Tian Bing Qing laughed at my face before he closed the door. I leaned onto the door as I politely spoke, “Your Majesty should sleep first. You have worked hard the entire day. I have slept for a long time in the afternoon, I am not sleepy yet. In fact, I am not sleepy at all.”
This was just like what the old people said: The spirit to fight was the hardest during the first drum roll. It would be exhausted on the second roll and would cease to exist on the third roll.
Feng Zhao Wen coldly swept his eyes over me, he looked like he was going to come and catch me. I quickly ran over to him while pouring him a cup of tea, “Your Majesty must be thirsty. Come! Drink this tea!”
He took the cup and simply placed it on a table next to the bed. And then, he pulled me over and gave me a good rub…..
The next day, I climbed out of the dragon bed half-dead. I swore to myself, I would never feel any grievance towards the emperor anymore. I would not do things like exacting revenge and what-not.
Could I, this commoner, did anything other than endure when it came to his unconventional methods of doing things?