Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I posted this a day earlier than scheduled because I know there are a lot of eager beavers 🙂 I am not sure when will be the next post because this is taking up a lot of my time 😦 By now, you should know who are the female and male leads of this story. It is obvious Liu Xi likes Song Ling Shu and vice versa.
Chapter 3: The Imperial Physician’s Tragic History
I vaguely come to realize that Liu Xi does not like Yan Xiao Wu. I secretly ask Yan Xiao Wu, whether he bullied Liu Xi in secret before. Otherwise, why he seems not to like him.
Yan Xiao Wu and I squat under a big tree and think about this for the whole afternoon. In the end, Yan Xiao Wu unilaterally comes to a conclusion: Liu Xi is jealous of Yan Xiao Wu’s strong body, buoyant health and manliness.
I smack Yan Xiao Wu with my Buddha’s Palm (a fictional wuxia martial arts based on a very old HK film that, in the story, was the most powerful). What is there to be jealous of, his sweat odor and smelly feet! Anyway the bitter medicine smell on Liu Xi’s body also does not really smell good, but at least I am more used to it.
At different point in time, Yan Xiao Wu suggests all kinds of improbable speculations: “Could it be that he likes you, so he is jealous of you getting close to me?”
I say earnestly: “Firstly, I am not close to you at all. Secondly, it is unlikely for him to like me.”
Yes ah, if he likes me, why does he treat me so coldly after he became the emperor, especially after my grandfather passed away? If he likes me, why would he have two to three concubines? If he likes me, how can imperial concubine Hua be pregnant?
If this also can be called liking me, then I definitely do not care for such cheap affection.
Thus Liu Xi’s feelings for Yan Xiao Wu could be classified as, in their previous lives, there were hatreds and enmities, so in this life, it’s a sadistic type of love to express those feelings.
On my second day in Lin Shui Palace, a few of Liu Xi’s other imperial concubines grouped together to see me for psychological therapy. The intention of the drunkard lies not on the wine (an idiom meaning to have ulterior motives). When they hear from me that mother and baby are very healthy and well, they invariably show a happy as well as a disappointed expression.
All these imperial concubines were anointed in these two years after Liu Xi ascended the throne. Liu Xi is a model emperor, but he also does not neglect the beloved concubines in his harem. From time to time, he will still copulate with a concubine once, to let them have a sense of presence. Liu Xi is a young emperor, after all is truly outstanding, like the orchids or trees of jade, carrying a gentle and refined bearing, and with a smile like the spring wind, warm and comforting. He is also the most distinguished man in this world. These women have seen him and possessed him. Thereafter they cannot leave him anymore.
Who says yearning is not an illness? There is no medicine to heal this kind of illness. Have to depend on a woman and a friend like me to talk them round. When I put on my imperial hospital uniform, they do not consider me as a woman so I am not a threat to them. They also do not consider me as a man, so there is no barrier between us. They probably take me as an androgynous eunuch.
“Imperial concubine Hua is really blessed to win the favor of His Majesty. In addition, she is pregnant with the dragon baby. Moreover her elder brother has been victorious in battle, completely destroyed the enemy’s last one hundred thousand soldiers and horses and ended the threat from Western Liang. It looks like the empress will be none other than imperial concubine Hua.” It is not known how sincere the person saying this is, but there is definitely a hint of jealousy.
I have always been uninterested in the matter of the imperial court and also do not care. Hence when I am listening to them, I only say a few perfunctory words. Suddenly I recall Liu Xi’s change on that day I entered the palace. He still looked gloomy in the afternoon, but was beaming with happiness at night, presumably because the news of the victory have arrived.
Sitting for only a short while outside, another person comes from Xi Hua Court to summon her. The imperial concubines say vaguely: “Imperial concubine Hua’s body is weak so imperial physician Song had better go quickly. If something happened, we cannot bear the responsibility.”
I also cannot bear the responsibility …… speaking of which, I am kind of worried. I am afraid that Liu Xi’s illness will be hereditary. If Liu Xi’s child also gets that kind of illness and my grandfather had passed away, I really do not know what to do.
Liu Xi’s child …… he will be having his own child ……
My mood is rather complex when I look at imperial concubine Hua’s bulging belly. Only a little arc, but a little live is growing in there. After growing up, will it be another Liu Xi?
“I heard someone asked imperial physician Song to go over just a moment ago?” Since Liu Xi is not around, imperial concubine Hua behaves differently. Being a person of noble birth, such woman is either arrogant or weak. It is obvious imperial concubine Hua will only appear weak in front of Liu Xi.
I reply with a smile: “Those imperial concubines are not feeling well and are used to seeing your humble servant me. Thus your humble servant had no choice but to go and have a look.”
“Oh, it is very likely their hearts are feeling unwell.” Imperial concubine Hua sneers, “What did they say?”
I reply: “Everyone said imperial concubine Hua is blessed. Also, great general is victorious in battle again, so the emperor is very happy.”
Speaking of the great general, imperial concubine Hua has a smile on her face. It is apparent that she is proud of this elder brother. “Of course my family is different from them, all small officials ……” Her words are a bit too much. In any case, they are all from at least level three official family ……
“Imperial physician Song.” Imperial concubine Hua changes the topic. Her beautiful eyes turn to me, a sharpness contained in them, “Imperial physician Song’s medical skill is superb. His Majesty regards you with special respect. I also place heavy reliance on you. It is very difficult and dangerous to stay pregnant for nine to ten months. You can’t guard against attack by hidden enemies in this palace. Therefore I am relying on imperial physician Song ……”
“Imperial concubine Hua’s words are too strong. This is your humble servant’s duty, so I dare not be even a little slack.”
Imperial concubine Hua smiles faintly and says: “Imperial physician Song, don’t be nervous. You are an honest person, but an honest person will have a tough time in this palace. As long as you treat me sincerely, I’ll let you live very comfortably.”
“Thank, thank you imperial concubine……”I lament in my heart. Is she trying to convince me to join her side? …… So I am also worthy to be won over, really flattering ……
We are in the middle of our conversation when Fu Chun comes and asks to see imperial concubine Hua. Her complexion changes and she adjusts her facial expression before letting Fu Chun comes in.
I see with my own eyes the whole process of face changing and is very shocked until I did not hear Fu Chun talking to me.
“What, His Majesty has fallen ill?” Suddenly imperial concubine Hua’s voice becomes sharp. I frown and finally start to react.
Fu Chun looks worried and says: “Yes, after the fighting at the border is quelled, His Majesty should be happy. But His Majesty is even more busy, having to reward the soldiers, treaty negotiation and meeting with the envoys. Hence, he got sick. His Majesty sent me here to summon imperial physician Song.”
I stare blankly at him. Frankly speaking, I do not really believe his explanations.
On the other hand, imperial concubine Hua believes firmly without any doubt, quickly stands up and says: “I am going to change my clothes and go to visit His Majesty immediately.”
“Don’t!” Fu Chun stops her at once and says with a pained face, “Imperial concubine, please don’t make things difficult for me. Although His Majesty is sick, it is not that serious. Therefore His Majesty specifically tells you not to go and visit him. His Majesty is worried that the imperial concubine who is pregnant will catch the illness. The dragon baby is very important. Even if the imperial concubine does not think for herself, she must also think for the sake of the dragon baby in the belly!”
Such words poke imperial concubine Hua’s sore spot. Of course, she is more worried about the dragon baby now. It is no secret that Liu Xi was a sickly child. Although he seems a bit better in the last two years, who knows whether the illness will recur. Imperial concubine Hua hesitates for a while, then readily follows the good advice. “Then have to trouble eunuch Fu Chun to send my best wishes.”
Fu Chun heaves a sigh of relief and quickly says: “Certainly.” He turns his head to look at me, “Imperial physician Song, let’s quickly go.”
Imperial concubine Hua also hurries me. I have no choice but to go on my way skeptically.
Actually, I can confirm Liu Xi really worked very hard for the past few days because I can see from my residence the lights in his palace were brightly lit all night. Although the lights in the imperial bedchamber are not put out, it is obvious that he is not sleeping in such bright lights.
I follow Fu Chun. When we reach the bedchamber, the head of the imperial hospital, imperial physician Shi is coming out from the inner chamber. I freeze for a moment when I see him. On the contrary, he is not surprised when he sees me. Fu Chun says to imperial physician Shi: “Imperial physician Shi, thank you for coming. How is His Majesty?”
Imperial physician Shi says: “Fell ill from constant overwork, suffering from internalized stresses that have had no outlet. It can be said this illness is not serious. The crucial point is to let His Majesty relaxes, not to work too hard. As for whether there is other reason, have to depend on imperial physician Song to examine again.” While saying that, he makes a polite bow to me.
Because my grandfather had treated Liu Xi for more than a decade-long, other people think I am very familiar with Liu Xi’s body condition and my medical skill is so superb until second to none. They have never doubted my medical skill. I feel very guilty and also bow continuously to imperial physician Shi.
I can understand what imperial physician Shi said. Although grandfather called him a quack doctor, he is the number one person in the imperial hospital. Thus his diagnosis should not be wrong ……
Overworked, Liu Xi is really too much! Will anyone give him an award for being a model emperor? I enter the bedchamber with a chaotic mind. By now, it is the hour of the day when lamps are required to be lit. A great majority of the lamps had already been lit and the attendants of the palace are preparing the medicinal cuisine. Liu Xi is lying in bed. He furrows his eyebrows, waves his hand and says: “Leave, I want to rest.”
I also want to follow them to go out but he says: “Imperial physician Song, come and feel my pulse.”
I move to his side, lean forward and sit down. At this moment, there is no one else in the bedchamber, so I mumble in a low voice: “I really don’t know how to examine ……”
Liu Xi’s eyes are closed. He seems very tired. After hearing my words, his eyelashes flicker, the corners of his mouth are turned upwards and his voice sounds hoarse: “I told you to feel the pulse so do as I said.”
I really do not know why he is so persistent …… but he is the emperor, so I can only obey. I put three fingers on his hand and look at his face.
He looks pale and haggard. His eyes are slightly swollen. His lips have lost its color and cracked. I could not help but ask: “Do you want to drink water?”
His eyelashes flutter again. Then he gently nods his head. “Okay.”
I turn around and pour a cup of water. When I turn back my head, he has already opened his eyes and is looking at me. He says, “Help me to get up.”
I help him to sit up and also take a pillow as a cushion for his back. Then I hand him the cup of water.
He does not take it but quietly looks at the cup for a short period of time. After that, he raises his head to look at me.
I forgot that he is the emperor. The emperor will not drink water on his own. I laugh at myself. Then I put the cup to his lips. He lifts his hand to cover my hand that is holding the cup and slowly gulps down the warm water.
My palms are burning hot.
I know my hand that is holding the cup must be sweating. Wet and slippery causing me great difficulty in holding on to the cup. Finally, he finishes drinking the water, but he does not seem to have the intention to let go of my hand. I stare at his hand in an attempt to pull back my hand without being obvious.
Suddenly he says: “Ling Shu.”
I am startled and raised my head to look at him.
He is leaning against the bed. The hair on the temples is a little sweaty. The expression on his face seemingly familiar. Put it another way, it is exactly the look I am familiar with for many years. At that time, the terrible cold sickness had tormented him until he cannot sleep soundly at night. Often awoke with a start in the middle of the night, his whole body sweaty and also shivering. His pale little face looked frail, like one touch and it will break into pieces. I followed grandfather’s instruction to wait in the outside chamber. I heard noises from the inner chamber and went in to take a look at him.
Grandfather made him take off his upper outer garment and lie on his stomach on the bed. After inserting a few needles, the blood vessels at the back seemed to expand, but they were green and blue in color. Liu Xi appeared to be enduring great pain as he was biting his lower lip until bleeding. But he did not say anything, only held one of my hands tightly. His eyes seemed to be looking at me, but the depth of his pupils appeared empty, so it seemed like he was looking at nothing.
After treatment with the needle, grandfather was exhausted and left. He was still holding my hand tightly and looking at me sheepishly with his jet-black and moist eyes, like a wounded deer. He said in a hoarse voice: “Ling Shu, don’t go, okay …… ”
The memory of the young boy’s facial feature overlaps with the young man before my eyes. While in a trance, I shiver and pull away from his hand.
His fingers move and fall to the side.
I take a few deep breaths and suppress the shaking in my voice. “If Your Majesty wants someone to wait on you, can get Fu Chun to go and summon someone. Even though imperial concubine Hua is pregnant, you can get other imperial concubines to come over.”
After hearing what I said, his face instantly darkens. But a light flashes in his pitch-black eyes and the corners of his mouth curve up when he appears to think of something.
“They are pampered and of noble birth, so how would they know how to wait on people?”
I say dully: “Although your humble servant is merely a lowly servant, I also don’t really know how to wait on people so you better ask the imperial concubines ……”
“No.” He interrupts me and says softly, “You hold my hand just like before.”
I frown and cast a puzzled glance at him. “Your Majesty is no longer a child.” He is not little Liu Xi anymore so why he still wants people to coax him. He really thinks that after becoming the emperor, everyone on earth is his mother and they all have to indulge him!
“Ling Shu ……” Here he goes again. Using a kind of light, gentle, and drawn-out tone, he calls my name. His voice rich and filled with depth and texture so that, when I hear it, my heart seems to tingle.
“What do you want ……” I stammer.
He lies down, looking very weak. “I feel unwell ……”
“Where do you feel unwell ……” I am such a spineless ……
“I can’t sleep.” He closes his eyes slightly. His voice sounds like he is whispering.
“I’ll give you prescription sleeping medicine?”
“You coax me ……” He decisively refuses medical treatment, “just like before.”
He is lying on the side, facing me and stretching out one of his hands from under the blanket to hold my hand. I gnash my teeth. Looking at the corners of his mouth slightly curve up and his delicate eyelashes cast faint shadows, it increasingly resembles the little Liu Xi in my memory ……
I stiffly lift up my hand and rest gently on his back, a pat and another pat.
At that time, little Liu Xi was also like this. He says: “Ling Shu, I’m afraid I can’t fall asleep. I am also afraid I will have nightmare after falling asleep.”
I say: “Don’t worry, I’m here to keep you company and to take care of you. If you’ve nightmare, I’ll wake you up.”
He nods his head and closes his eyes. After a short period of time, he says: “I cannot sleep. Ling Shu, sing me a song.”
I scratch my head awkwardly: “Nobody taught me how to sing before ah ……”
“Then tell me a story?”
“Also…… also don’t know ……”
He gives me a look of disdain and says: “Then what do you know?”
“Recite medical books.” I silently shed tears.
He reluctantly nods and says: “Okay, you recite to me ……”
People from the imperial family are all so annoying. He said recite then I have to recite ah!
I really recite …… from ‘Lingshu‘ (an ancient Chinese medical text) and ‘Suwen’ (Basic Questions) to ‘Bencao‘ (a book on Chinese herbal medicine) and ‘Huangdi Neijing‘ (an ancient Chinese medical text that has been treated as the fundamental doctrinal source for Chinese medicine) to reflect my solid medical theoretical foundation. Afterwards, he says: “You only need to recite ‘Lingshu’.”
I ask: “Why?”
He says: “I like ‘Lingshu’.”
I stutter and continue to recite ‘Lingshu’. After a long time, I already cannot recite completely.
Liu Xi’s breathing gradually slows down. I know he has fallen asleep because his hand that is holding my hand is loosened. I stare at his sleeping face, the heart unbearably suffocating. Then I imagine shaking him, grabbing him by the collar and shouting just like when we were children: “Liu Xi, what are you up to!”
But he is the emperor now, so I cannot do that.
The sound of footstep comes through from outside, I turn around to take a look. Fu Chun says with a smiling face: “Imperial physician Song, has His Majesty fallen asleep?”
I nod my head.
“Imperial physician Song, thank you for your trouble. His Majesty has asked me to send you back to Lin Shui Palace.” I stare blankly at him for a little while, so he explains, “Even the imperial concubines also cannot stay overnight in His Majesty’s palace. His Majesty had instructed in advance, to let imperial physician Song go back to Lin Shui Palace after he has fallen asleep.”
My heart feels like being stung by a bee, aching. I numbly nod, stand up and lower my voice to say: “No need to trouble you since I know the way. I can go back on my own.”
Then, I walk out.
It is already middle of the night but there are still a lot of people sticking their heads out and looking around in the Emperor Palace. The informers from each palace are watching attentively, probably wanting to climb into the dragon bed. But what is the point since it is just lust? Then you will be sent back to your own palace desolately, so meaningless.
With Liu Xi’s kidney deficiency (a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) term meaning the body essential essence is low) appearance, I really do not know whether he can satisfy those insatiable women.
I snort coldly, stamp my feet and run back.
3 of 7 Main story segments