The long-awaited chapter 2 is here but chapter 3 won’t be ready until Boxing day so be patient. This a short story so it’ll end soon. If you cannot wait, then don’t read until I’ve completed it.
Chapter 2: The Imperial Physician’s Tragic History
I have often thought that if something really happened to imperial concubine Hua, will the emperor really want my life. After all, we grew up playing together since childhood to adulthood ……
The current emperor is the eighth Prince Liu Xi. It can be said that my grandfather single-handedly saved his life. He is the eighth son, neither up nor down, a ranking that is not particularly advantageous. Moreover he was already sick since in the womb, so he was a sickly child when he was young. Hence this sick and weak prince was definitely not favoured by the late emperor. Every person in the palace also snubbed him. Seeing that the eighth prince and his mother had lost favour, they bullied them by withholding their allowance, food and clothing supplies. When eighth prince was seriously ill with a high fever, they can’t even afford to see an imperial doctor. It was eighth prince’s little palace maid who stopped my grandfather when he was on his way home. Because she knelt down and kowtowed to beg grandfather, so he went to treat Liu Xi.
I do not know what kind of illness Liu Xi was diagnosed with but one look at grandfather’s expression, you can guess it is definitely not a simple headache. That boy is older than me by three years, but was shorter than me. His chin was pointed and thin, palm-sized. His pale face always has a strange bright red glow. After walking a few steps, he will gasp for breath. Everyone was convinced that he will not live past ten years old. Unexpectedly, after being treated by grandfather for ten years, those ailments managed to be cured. Without noticing it and in the blink of an eye, he is actually taller than me now. He no longer looks timid like before. He has also learnt to be snooty, to turn his nose up at people. He said coldly and sarcastically to me “Then bring me your own head,” really …… ungrateful!
There is really very few good people in the imperial family!
I swear in my heart but act respectfully on the surface. Liu Xi only says a few words before someone comes to bring him some news. He whispers in Liu Xi’s ear and his face darkens. Then he leaves hurriedly with the news bearer. After Liu Xi left, only then the imperial physicians can relax completely. I get up from the floor and turn around to look at the bed. Imperial concubine Hua had already sat up. A pair of beautiful eyes looking at the empty doorway, a face full of resentment.
Don’t be so anxious because there is still a few decades to make you feel resentful.
I sigh and turn to leave. After walking just a few steps, I see Liu Xi’s trusted eunuch, Fu Chun walking towards me. With a smile on his face, he says respectfully: “His Majesty said imperial concubine Hua’s pregnancy is a major event, so cannot have any mishap. Let imperial physician Song to live nearby for more convenient care.”
“This …… I’m afraid this is improper and unreasonable. Government officials cannot stay inside ……” I am at a loss. I am worried. I am going crazy!
Fu Chun laughs and says: “Imperial physician Song needs not be concerned about this. Government officials are not allowed to spend the night in the palace for fear that it would bring about lewdness within the palace. Imperial physician Song is a woman so no such worry. Lin Shui Palace has already been prepared for imperial physician Song, so you can move in immediately.”
I say with great alarm: “Lin Shui Palace! I’m afraid that this is even more inappropriate!”
Lin Shui Palace is next to Liu Xi’s palace. Although it is not official, but this has always been treated as the palace of the empress. How can a mere imperial physician like me stay in this kind of place!
Fu Chun smiles faintly: “His Majesty has his reason for arranging it in this way. Imperial physician Song better obeys the Emperor’s command.”
Having said that, he does not pay anymore attention to me. He turns and leaves, leaving me looking lifeless.
I continue to look lifeless until at night, when I am dining in Lin Shui Palace.
Liu Xi really had a very good reason ……
He lets me stay in the first-class palace maid residence around Lin Shui Palace. To put it simply, it is the servant’s quarter. Imagining that one’s love is reciprocated brings a lot of worries ……
I scratch my head and lightly push the food away.
The food in the palace is still much better than at home. Probably it is because of my position as the imperial physician. I am also imperial concubine Hua’s specially appointed imperial physician so my rank is a little higher. These foods are something that Yan Xiao Wu, an ordinary fighting goon, could not even begin to compare about.
I have got the imperial edict to stay in the palace but Yan Xiao Wu does not need to stay. Thus he leaves the medicine box early in the morning and slips away to return home. That guy was adopted by my grandfather as a child out of kindness. At that time, he had a row with someone in the street over a steamed bun and nearly led to a bloodshed. My grandfather used a meat bun to bring him home and he stayed for more than ten years. Due to his influence, Yan Xiao Wu learned some medical skills. He does not need to feel the pulse but only looks at the complexion to be able to diagnose that person condition. For instance, he often says to me: “Song Ling Shu, you will die.”
Every time he finished saying this sentence, I will also be punished by grandfather by either standing still, writing or being locked up to ponder over my mistakes. If you count like this, Yan Xiao Wu’s medical skill can be considered half a bucket of water. Reportedly, his martial arts skill is half a bucket of water more than his medical skill. He is known as ‘Come One Bucket’ in the martial arts world. I always thought like this, until Yan Xiao Wu is at the end of his patience and explains that it is actually called ‘Come One Stab’. Because he is someone who uses the spear, these three words mean ‘if he’s come he will surely make a stab with his spear. It has the same reasoning as ‘the sword must draw blood once unsheathed’.
I say: “Yan Xiao Wu, you are so lame. Even the nickname is so not suitable for children.”
Yet my grandfather actually wanted to betroth me to a person with such an evil nickname. Thinking of it, I also feel a bit injured internally.
After just finishing my meal, the palace maid delivers the things Yan Xiao Wu asked someone to send into the palace to me. I sort through them. In addition to a change of clothes, there are tools to escape. There is a slip of paper with a few crooked lines hidden inside. I look at it for a long time but still do not understand anything. Then I look at the back and see the writing —— the reverse side is a map of the underground passages in the palace. If you meet with a mishap, flee. I will not go to pick you up.
I quietly put it away. Once again, I want to express my gratitude to God for giving me such an idiot who I can believe, can complain and can detest.
Having just put away the things, another palace maid comes to convey a message, saying that Xihua Court has summoned imperial physician Song. I hurriedly drape an overcoat around my shoulders and follow that person away.
As expected, Liu Xi is also in Xihua Court.
Imperial concubine Hua with a thin layer of powder on her face is leaning on Liu Xi’s left side. She looks like a weak little bird relying on people (an idiom meaning cute and helpless-looking). I think Liu Xi actually likes this type of woman. It is probably because she is just like him. When Liu Xi was young, he was much weaker, helpless-looking and good-looking than this imperial concubine Hua. Imperial concubine Hua’s older brother is the generalissimo. As a descendant of the commander-in-chief’s influential family, she must be pretending to be this weak.
Liu Xi helps imperial concubine Hua to sit up at the side of the bed. Unlike his gloomy and inscrutable appearance in the afternoon, there is a faint smile on his face. He is speaking gently to imperial concubine Hua: “You are pregnant and in poor health, so don’t get out of bed.” Once he turns around, he says coldly and indifferently to me: “Imperial physician Song, imperial concubine Hua says she is not feeling well. Come and take a look to see what is the matter.”
I nod my head and agree. Liu Xi does not go away but sits at the side of the bed and lets imperial concubine Hua leans against his chest. I tremble in fear when I step forward. I have to admit that bright yellow clothes is very lethal, practically blind my eyes with its brightness. I lower my head to look at imperial concubine Hua’s wrist, but I still see bright yellow, from the knee to the hem.
I have always felt that this color is like a glittering feces. I do not know why so many people are fighting to wear it.
During that time, when I was on more familiar term with Liu Xi, I did not behave in a proper manner and talked nonsense with him. On the day he ascended the throne, I followed my grandfather to give him a routine check-ups. I saw him in feces color from head to toe and smilingly said: “Liu Xi, I can’t recognise you with your clothes on!”
Grandfather slapped on my head once and rebuked me: “So outrageous!”
Liu Xi coughed softly twice. There was a faint pink glow on his pale face. He looked a little embarrassed at me. It was my last time seeing that kind of expression.
Initially I thought that, clothes are merely clothes. People will not be different just because they are wearing different clothes. Later I found myself horribly wrong. Eighth Prince Liu Xi is long dead. The person in front of me now is Emperor Liu Xi. At that time, I can casually address him by his name but I cannot do it now. In order to avoid mentioning the emperor’s name among the people, the word ‘Xi’ (It means hope in Chinese) can no longer be used. The common people has no ‘hope’. I also have no ‘hope’.
I am lost in my thought until Liu Xi raises his voice and shouts loudly. Only then I am awakened with a start. I touch my wrist to conceal my discombobulation. Then I turn to look at imperial concubine Hua. “Imperial concubine Hua, any symptoms of not feeling well?”
Imperial concubine Hua softly says: “Always feel sick and nauseous.”
I smile and say: “This is certainly a stage where all pregnant women also have to go through. Imperial concubine Hua needs not worry. Your humble servant will go back and prescript some medicine. If you take them on a timely manner, the symptoms will be alleviated.”
Later, I will get someone to go to the imperial hospital to get some medicine to be used during pregnancy. The fact is I will not be able to write the prescription.
Actually, Liu Xi knew about it. I do not know why he still made me come to treat imperial concubine Hua.
Imperial concubine Hua does not suspect anything amiss and nods gently in agreement. She leans on the back of Liu Xi’s hand and says softly: “Your Majesty please stay the night to accompany me, okay?”
Liu Xi naturally smiles, nods and says: “Okay, you take a rest first. I will go to the study room to hand over the remaining official work first. Then I’ll come and keep you company.”
At this moment, there are certainly a lot of imperial concubines in the harem wanting to stick a needle on her.
Imperial concubine Hua is very docile and looks lovingly at Liu Xi. When she closes her eyes, she cannot conceal her pride.
I take a few steps to go out. It is hot and stuffy inside until I feel unwell. The moment I am out, I unfasten the top two front buttons and gasp for breath.
“Song Ling Shu.” Someone with a very familiar voice calls my name from behind.
I stop walking, turn around stiffly and look —— Liu Xi’s complexion is not good when he is walking towards me.
I slowly kneel down —— really tiring. Every time I see him, I also have to kneel down. If we meet a few times more, my knee will be damaged.
“Your humble servant bows to Your Majesty.”
“You can forgo the formality.” He walks past me and sits down on the stone stool. I slowly stand up and discover there is actually no one around.
“I also don’t feel well lately. Thus you also take a look at me.” While saying that, he stretches out his hand.
I stare blankly at the wrist in front of me. Then I look up at him and say: “Ah?”
His deep and dark eyes blink and look at me while he says: “Come over.”
I move half a step, lower my voice and say in a distressing voice: “Your Majesty, you knew about my …… if you are really not feeling well, better get imperial physician Shi or Su to come and look at you.”
He does not oppose but say: “Do you want to disobey the imperial decree?”
I feel grievance when he talks like this to me. It is like eating green plums but I can only sniff. I brace myself to step forward.
I dare not sit down, but just bend down and put my three fingers on his pulse. God, have mercy on me …… Except for the throbbing of veins, I cannot feel anything. Grandfather always said my nerve is too thick, because I cannot even feel the obvious difference in the type of pulse. Frankly speaking, it is obviously just one throb after another, what is the difference ……
“Your Majesty, where do you feel unwell?” I’ve no choice but to put on an act to the very end.
“Insomnia, a lot of dreams and body chills.” He looks into my eyes while saying this.
My heart feels a little painful and I ask in a trembling voice: “Is your illness recurring?”
If yes, then I’m afraid there is really no one with the ability to cure him. The symptoms for his previous illness are also like this. Either he cannot sleep or can sleep with great difficulty but is soon awakened by nightmares and sweating all over. Then he will feel cold and hug himself. In such a circumstances, he can only rely on drugs in the long term to get to sleep. He will always end up with faint dark circles under his eyes.
“What will happen if it is a recurring illnesses?” He asks me seriously.
My voice is choked with emotion in my throat, so I cannot answer him. I really cannot answer him because I do not know. I can only look foolishly at him.
In the end, the corner of his mouth curves into a smile and he says: “Bluff you.”
I breathe a sigh of relief, then I feel even more sorrowful. My shoulders slump in dejection and I faintly utter, ‘Oh’. I want to withdraw my hand, only to discover that he is holding it.
I am frightened again!
The warmth of Liu Xi’s hand is merely a faint, small amount, like the setting sun on a winter day, a little luxury and a warmth that seems as if it could be taken away at any moment.
“There is something I want to tell you, but this is not the time yet ……” When he is saying this, there seems to be flashes of light in his eyes, “I can only tell you that I will be able to do what I want soon ….. Your grandfather saved my life, so I will grant you a wish. What do you want? Who do you want? What do you want to do? No matter what, I also can grant you ……” He lowers his voice, gentle like a seductive deep dream, “Tell me, no matter what you want, I also can give you ……”
I look foolishly into his eyes and move my lips to say: “I want …… a medallion which will grant me amnesty ……”
“What?” He interrupts and stares blankly for a moment.
I purse my lips and say in a consultative voice: “Being the imperial physician is very dangerous. You know me well. I am afraid that I’ll malpractice one day and you will kill me …… can you give me a medallion which will grant me amnesty …… or a lot of medallions which will grant me amnesty? I think one is not enough …… ”
Liu Xi says with a sullen face: “No way!”
I pout. It really is a lie because he said anything also can just a moment ago ……
Liu Xi sighs and says: “Okay, I promise you that I will definitely not sentence you to death. You can put your mind at ease now? Then …… do you still have other wish?”
I lower my head to think carefully. My heart skips a beat. I look up at him and say happily: “Yes!”
“What?” He asks softly.
“I want to leave the palace!” I say cheerfully, “Anyway, you knew about my lack of medical skill. I am more competent as a butcher, so is of no use to the imperial hospital. Hence there is no point for me to stay here. Because of your ancestor Emperor Gao, my family has no choice but to practice medicine in every generation, …… can you let me go?”
Liu Xi takes a deep breath and says in a slightly trembling voice: “After leaving here, where can you go?”
I smilingly say: “Yan Xiao Wu had already made a name for himself in the martial arts world, so I will go with him. He promised grandfather to take care of me for the rest of his life!” Before I finish saying, I feel a sharp pain in the hand and give a wail of anguish. Only then, Liu Xi releases his grip on my hand.
“Don’t even think about it!” He says these few words and leaves immediately without looking back.
2 of 7 Main story segments