So… um… Mo Bao Fei Bao had not intended to torture readers and had resolved the cliffhanger the next update, but the publisher decided to move this insert chapter here instead. And since I’m following the published book… tehe… You don’t get to find out what happened to Shi Yi until one more update after.
Insert Chapter 2 – Treasure of My Heart
When the crown prince was five years old, he learned that the year he was born into the world, the various dukes, marquis, and high-level officials had suspected a mutiny within the imperial palace. The emperor’s reason of death was unclear, and he, the crown prince had also come into position under unclear circumstances. But he was being viewed unjustly as well. The empress at the time had no children of her own, and so, she selected the youngest imperial child to be the crown prince.
And hence, this became the perk that had simply fallen into his lap.
At five years old, he already understood this truth.
To not contend for, not rob, not seize, and not desire anything.
When Empress Dowager told him to walk, he would walk, and when she told him to stop, he would stop.
The crown prince was frail from sickness, and the medicines he had taken since he was young numbered more than the food he had partaken. At the empress dowager’s rebuke, he had had to stand one full day and night before the palace gates with a bowl of medicine cupped in his hands, not daring to move. Not allowed to move. Then, he had only been seven years old. He loved birds, and so, birds would die. He adored and yearned for the fish swimming in the waters, so from age seven to sixteen, he never saw another fish. The power to give life or death, including this lowly little person’s life, was held in the hands of the woman who called herself, “Empress Dowager.”
Gradually, he learned to not long for any living thing.
Until he saw her portrait painting.
The daughter of the Cui family of Qinghe –– Shi Yi.
Her features were clean and delicate, but they were nothing more than clean and delicate. The two eunuchs attending by his side bowed and informed him in a low voice, “Imperial Highness, this is your future crown princess.” He looked at the young girl in the portrait, who was merely ten years old and, with brush in hand, was painting.
She was the only gift he had ever been bestowed.
A feeling of wild elation filled him, but he dared not show it.
Since that day, every month, he would receive a painting of her as well as a written record of her each day.
She did not have the ability of speech and only enjoyed reading and painting. The books she read encompassed all varieties of subject matters, and some were very interesting and entertaining. When she painted, she was only willing to paint lotus flowers. Lotus flower? What could be so good about the lotus flower? Perhaps this was an interest of a young girl. He did not understand, nor did he need to understand.
But her lotus flowers were painted very beautifully, indeed.
Each time, he tried to copy, to recreate her paintings, but he was unable to capture their essence.
Shi Yi. Eleven.
Amid the disciples of the Xiao Nanchen Prince’s manor, she occupied merely the eleventh position. That year when she was seven years old, she had entered the manor and had been treated unkindly. Unable to speak, she could only be submissive and yielding. Later, she had often hidden herself in the library tower, and for an entire day at a time, her presence would not be seen. Was she also like him, averse to sharing her heart with other people?
That is no matter. In the future, you will be the most respected and honored woman in this palace. If you do not want to share your heart with other people, then there will only be you and me. I will never treat you unkindly.
After several years passed, as she gradually grew older, her senior brother and sisters now cherished and protected her, and she was also the sole person who received Xiao Nanchen Prince’s doting affection.
He gathered famous teas from around the lands and sought out a lost music manuscript of a previous dynasty for her.
The relationship between Xiao Nanchen Prince and the preordained crown princess was ambiguous and questionable.
On the day of the empress dowager’s birthday celebration, someone had submitted a statement to the throne claiming Xiao Nanchen Prince’s intention to rebel against the state.
Many similar statements to the throne were submitted each year, and each year, they would be suppressed and controlled. This year, there was listed an additional charge against him, stating the rumours regarding him and the crown princess. Glaring out at the imperial court, the empress dowager threw down the statement and fiercely demanded, “The one who put forth this statement, stand forward. Should you unseat Xiao Nanchen Prince, the one hundred thousand retainers in his service shall belong to you.”
Nobody dared respond to the summons. All were silent, like the cicadas when the cold fell.
Surely, that was in jest. Xiao Nanchen Prince had led armies into battle since youth and had never suffered a defeat.
When the crown prince heard news of this in the Eastern Palace, he also did not say anything.
Who did not know that, in his ten years in this position, this puppet crown prince had always also been a voiceless crown prince?
How could the empress dowager not be afraid? The former armed uprising by the dukes, marquis, and high-level officials had been a result of a single statement by this Xiao Nanchen Prince:
“A rebellion is suspected within the palace.”
If he should he want the entire empire, she would have no choice but to submissively offer it up to him, so what was a mere crown princess? The empress dowager had once told her closest eunuchs, the roles people play all must mutually give some face to one another. She had chosen to disregard the lands to the northwest, asking only for peace and security for the remainder of her life and that Xiao Nanchen Prince would spare this imperial palace and dynasty so she, halfway into old age already, could peacefully enjoy riches and honor.
But the affairs of the world were unpredictable. The empress dowager died unexpectedly within the palace.
The crown prince sealed the imperial city and prevented the announcement of this to the world. Using the empress dowager’s name, the first imperial decree he wrote was to summon the crown princess into the palace to complete the marriage ceremony. And on that same day, he sent out a secret imperial summons to the Cui family of Qinghe to enter the palace.
That day, the representatives of the Cui family of Qinghe walked past each heavy palace gate and knelt outside of the Eastern Palace for two full shichen [four hours]. Half a chi [approximately 15-16 cm] of snow had accumulated. Their garments were sodden, and their knees had long since grown numb from the cold. They knelt into the middle of the night until finally, a eunuch came to lead them inside.
The crown prince of the Eastern Palace. Nobody from outside of the imperial palace had ever seen him before. The father and sons of the Cui family of Qinghe had been bestowed an utmost honour.
Upon the daybed, the pasty-complexioned man, who had eyes so dark they seemed as if ink had been dabbed on them, was wrapped in a thick, heavy cloak as he watched them for one entire shichen [two hours].
He uttered not a single word or phrase, occasionally merely drinking some water to moisten his throat.
As daybreak approached, someone brought in medicine. Through the rising steam of the medicine, his face seemed hazy, and he began to cough.
Within the vast Eastern Palace, there was not the slightest sound except for his wave after wave of coughing.
The father and sons of the Cui family of Qinghe hastily fell to their knees, pressing their faces to the ground, and they revealed to him what they had discussed on their way here: how Eleven’s name would be used to lure Xiao Nanchen Prince into a trap to kill him. Crown Prince listened quietly but was somewhat displeased. “No matter what, Xiao Nanchen Prince is Zhen’s [the imperial “I”] uncle. Your plan… is too wicked and underhanded. If the empress learns of this, how will Zhen explain it to her?”
An imperial succession ceremony had not yet been held, yet he was addressing himself as “Zhen.”
“Your Imperial Majesty…” The father and sons of the Cui family of Qinghe hurriedly touched their foreheads against the floor further. “Zhousheng Chen is a great threat. To not eliminate him thus means that stability and order cannot be brought to the empire!”
He carried on drinking his medicine with lowered head. The steam seemed to stain his features until they became rather indistinct.
This scheme ultimately had captured the Xiao Nanchen Prince.
From when he assumed the position of crown prince, the first time he had ever met this Xiao Nanchen Prince was in a dimly lit dungeon. He as the ruler, he as the subject. He stood before him, yet he did not bow to him.
The crown prince of the past, now the emperor of the present.
To have taken the world but to have never received a bow from him.
Yet, he could not be blamed for that. He was dead already.
He wore a thick robe and cloak, but he still could not bear the cold, damp air of the dungeon. In his ten years in the imperial palace, by the bestowment of the empress dowager, daily, he had drunk poison, and now, he could only daily take medicines to prolong his life.
All he wanted was the one gift he had ever been granted, the only person that had ever belonged to him.
“In the imperial decree that day, when Zhen ordered you to adopt her as your daughter, my meaning had been to grant this empire to you in exchange for the beautiful maiden.” He smiled forlornly, and in a somewhat self-depracating manner, he said to that person who was already dead, “At most, my lifespan is only another ten years. Ten years from now, who would have dared try to take it from you?
“In the entire world, only the empress dowager and I knew the mystery of your birth and background. The empress dowager is dead, and Zhen will not say anything either. It is Zhen who has done wrong against you.” The night wind dispersed the smoke of the candle.
He left, leaving orders for a generous burial, but the criminal charge of conspiring and rebelling against the state still remained.
All of you were the ones who forced Zhen.
If Empress Dowager had not intended on allowing you to be with her, I would not have had to poison her, my imperial mother.
If you had not defied the decree, Zhen would not have plotted your death. With the death of Xiao Nanchen Prince, who in the imperial courts is now capable of shouldering the weight of this land? Nobody. Lives shall fall into suffering. People shall be forced to leave their homes into wandering.
Zhen had not intended this, nor did Zhen want this. But Zhen…
Historical records stated:
Emperor Dongling: Since childhood, he had been confined within the Eastern Palace, not allowed to come forth and be seen by others. Later, he received the assistance of the Cui family of Qinghe and captured the treasonous official, Xiao Nanchen Prince to bring justice back into the laws of the imperial court. The emperor’s hatred for the Xiao Nanchen Prince ran deep into his bones due to rumors of the illicit relationship with the crown princess and hence, bestowed the punishment of death by deboning upon him.
Xiao Nanchen Prince’s sentence was carried out for a full three shichen [6 hours], but there was not a single cry or howl of anguish. Even to death, he refused to repent.
His reign was for three years before his abrupt death. He left no offspring.
By the river, threads of spring rain; by the river, grass stretches levelly along the shore.
The Six Dynasties of the past now seem but a dream amid the birds’ empty twitters.
Most unfeeling are the willow trees of Taicheng,
For still they stand unchanging along the miles of misty riverbanks.
The Six Dynasties were but faded away. Enmities and grievances had passed. Yet, Chang’an still stood.
Will you let me have the chance to truly see you, in person?
皇城 “huang cheng.” This term, “imperial city” is not referring to the capital city, nor is it referring to the imperial palace. It was an area between the capital city (where the commoners resided) and the imperial palace. The imperial city, which was surrounded by its own city wall, was where the imperial kin lived (imperial uncles, aunts, etc.) and also contained things like government storehouses and offices, etc.
尺 “chi.” A Chinese unit of length. Often described as the “Chinese foot.” The exact measurement of a “chi” has changed throughout history, ranging between 17 to 33 cm. In the 20th century, it was standardized to be equivalent to 33.33 cm. Although the ancient parts in this story are set in a purely fictional era, based on the clues we’ve been given, we know it is after the Tang dynasty and at the latest, in the early Song dynasty (hoju’s deduction only…), when the “chi” was approximately 31-32 cm.
朕 “zhen.” In far ancient times, this character meant simply “I” or “me.” From the time of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, this became something used by the emperor only. Hence, “Zhen” is the self-address used by Chinese emperors and can be thought of as the “imperial I”.
六朝 “liu chao.” The Six Dynasties was a period spanning from 220-589 A.D. (see footnote  in Chapter 10.1)
 These four lines make up the poem, 台城 “Taicheng” by Tang dynasty poet, 韦庄 Wei Zhuang. The city of Jinling, which is now present day Nanjing, was the capital capital city during the time of the Six Dynasties and was a prosperous city at the time. This poem was written ~300 years after the end of that period. Taicheng was the site within the capital where the government site and palace once stood during that period. In short, the poem is saying, where once there stood a site of prosperity, now there is only a stretch of grass being dampened by the spring rain. But the willow trees that may have even witnessed the fall of that era are unfeeling, for unaffected by all of it, they continue to do as they always did, changing only with the seasons.
My ancient-setting translating is a little rusty. :p All those palace terms…
You all know how Xiao Nanchen Prince’s death saddens me and how I really feel for Shi Yi, who has to know the historical records of this great man are all lies. Eleven was anguished that it was her father and brothers who had framed and plotted against him, and modern day Shi Yi, despite having only fuzzy memories and not knowing how exactly he had died, knows that she owes him a great debt (following the belief that the debts of one’s father is paid by his children). What would happen if Eleven had ever found out, or if Shi Yi somehow gains the knowledge that Xiao Nanchen Prince had only fallen into the trap because her family had used her as bait? How devastating. 😦
By the way, I know you are all eagerly wanting to find out what’s going on with modern Shi Yi, but this chapter is rather interesting. Did you change your perception of the crown prince? It was not for power or out of fear of losing his throne to his imperial uncle that he participated in the trap that ultimately captured Xiao Nanchen Prince and led to his death. He just wanted something to belong to him exclusively, and it was done out of jealousy and fear of not getting to “have” Shi Yi. If a psychological assessment was done on him, I’m sure more than one flag would pop up saying the poor man did not have all of his marbles, but a life of confinement, psychological torture, and then physical harm through slow poisoning would be enough to cause anyone to be a little unstable. The crown prince is called a “man,” but he was born in the same year as Eleven — he was only 17 or 18 years old. And he spent 7 of those years placing all his hope and yearning into those portraits of Eleven, wanting only to see her, to “have” her.
Also, I wonder, why did he choose such a horrible death for Xiao Nanchen Prince? Or was he the one who chose it? Was it his psychological instability, waffling between extreme hate for the man who was about to take “the treasure of his heart” from him and respect for this uncle, who was the only one capable of shouldering the weight of the land, hence his remorse and admission that he had done a wrong against him?
Lastly, just wanted to point out a little observation. The crown prince also tried to recreate Eleven’s paintings, but though he must have studied them, he was not able to capture their essence. While Zhousheng Chen did not completely recreate the mood of Shi Yi’s painting because “the atmosphere of the scene was a reflection of the atmosphere of the heart,” after a single, hurried viewing, according to his mother, it was already 70-80% like the original. Think this translates to something in terms of the fated affinity between them?
1 of 1 Prologue
43 of 56 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogues