It is time for your monthly update of Liu Xi and Ling Shu. This chapter is mainly about the hunting trip so find out what’ll happen 😛
Sickness comes like a landslide, but goes slowly like spinning silk (a Chinese idiom meaning expect to convalesce slowly). Liu Xi’s illness lingers for a full three months. He makes me go to help him to fall asleep every few days. He proclaims to the public about the recurrence of an old illness which only imperial physician Song can treat. As a result, it allows me to decline the assignment from Xi Hua Court. Instead a group of imperial physicians is assigned to look after imperial concubine Hua. Whereas I am assigned full-time to be in charge of the emperor’s everyday life.
One day, when I go back to the imperial hospital to take some medicine, I inadvertently overhear several imperial physicians gossiping.
“His Majesty’s illness, I fear is ……” Imperial physician Jia starts to speak and then hesitates, but the meaning is already very clear.
“The symptom appears common, but it is similar to His Majesty’s old illness. I am afraid the remnant of the poison is still left in the body. Now that the senior imperial physician Song had passed away, imperial physician Song is still young. Hence I don’t know whether she is capable.”
Remnant of the poison is still left in the body? I am a bit startled.
“They said that imperial physician Song treats His Majesty with acupuncture every night. Otherwise His Majesty has difficulty sleeping. However even so, His Majesty does not seem to get well. I’m afraid, shall remain a mystery……” Imperial physician Jia sighs, “His Majesty is a good emperor, unfortunately …… ”
“Fortunately, imperial concubine Hua is pregnant. Thus, even if ……that also ……”
“Hey!” Someone interrupts, “We better only say these words secretly among us. If let other people hear, it is a crime punishable by death! Working in the palace, how can you still be so outspoken!”
“Yes yes yes ……” Everyone quickly agrees and dares not make rash comment anymore.
I am in a trance when I walk out of the imperial hospital. I am afraid what those people said, is what most people in the palace think. The people in the palace are more diligent in going to Xi Hua Court nowadays. At first, I treat it as just normal currying favor with flattery but it seems it is probably more than that.
They are no longer optimistic about Liu Xi, treating him like he has not much time left. Once Liu Xi died, the heir to the throne will certainly be the dragon baby in imperial concubine Hua’s stomach. The Chen country has always had the tradition of having a female emperor. Thus regardless of whether the baby in imperial concubine Hua’s stomach is a prince or princess, it will not change anything. At that time, imperial concubine Hua with her child as emperor, will become the empress dowager. Also, his elder brother controls the military, so who will not curry favor with her?
I heave a sigh. Yan Xiao Wu has a pretty good phrase, the body is the capital of revolution. He was homeless and wandered from place to place since young, suffering all kinds of supercilious look and beating. Yet he still managed to survive. If it is Liu Xi, I am afraid that he will collapse with only the poke of a finger.
Liu Xi ‘s illness ah ……
Really that serious? But he seems not very worried? Could it be that he is pretending?
“Imperial physician Song, imperial physician Song.” Fu Chun’s loud voice frightens me. I open my eyes wide to look at him. He smilingly says, “Imperial physician Song, His Majesty told me to come to inform you that His Majesty has to accompany the envoy from Western Liang to Shanglin park on a hunting trip the day after tomorrow. You’ll also be going together so you should be prepared.”
“Hunting?” I frown, “His Majesty’s body can withstand?”
Fu Chun says: “His Majesty cannot let the envoy from Western Liang looks down on us.” Fu Chun helplessly shakes his head, “In short, His Majesty had already decided as such. Thus you prepare yourself and follow us there. You know best about His Majesty’s body.”
Why the last sentence sounds not quite right ……
Liu Xi is barely alive, yet he still has to go hunting to maintain the national dignity, really touching …… I think for a while before writing a letter. Then I get someone to deliver it to my home to Yan Xiao Wu.
Some may think that I get Yan Xiao Wu to come to protect Liu Xi and so on. Actually …… I get him to come to protect me. There is no other way. Liu Xi has so many imperial guards around. My lowly life cannot be compared with him. Yan Xiao Wu is still more reliable. Moreover, Yan Xiao Wu has always wanted to go to Shanglin park to hunt, so he will be grateful to me.
As expected, after receiving the letter, Yan Xiao Wu flies into the palace on that night. His two round eyes emit faint green light at night.
“Xiao Ling Zi (taking the ‘Ling’ from her name and addressing her like a eunuch), I am not wrong about you. Indeed you’re a loyal and pure man!” Yan Xiao Wu laughs.
I slap on his forehead. “Go, you heartless thing. I get you to come to protect me. Don’t only think about having fun!”
“Of course, of course!” He pats his chest when saying that, “I promised your grandfather, even if you’ve committed a capital offense, I will also go to the execution ground to save you!”
Grandfather, you really planned far ahead and also have no confidence in me ……
“But ……” Yan Xiao Wu looks at me from top-down and bottom-up, “You think too highly of yourself. Besides poor riding skills that would result in you falling off your horse, what other way could you possibly die?”
“I’ve an inauspicious premonition ……” I wring my quilt while saying, “Shanglin park is not a safe place because something will always happen during the hunting. Wasn’t there a girl who once barged into the hunting grounds to reunite with her long-lost father? The guards at the hunting ground are too unreliable. Any random swallow or sparrow can fly in here, so what if there’s an assassin?” (This is a plug at Princess Returning Pearl, where the female lead, Xiao Yan Zi, whose name translates to “Little Swallow” charged into the hunting grounds to help her friend to try to reunite with her long-lost father, the emperor, but then was mistaken as the lost princess)
“So ……” Yan Xiao Wu’s mind is a little slow and looks at me in confusion.
“I’m still worried that I’ll fall off the horse.”
This time it is Yan Xiao Wu’s turn to say: “Go!”
I still treasure my life very much. It is always wise to play safe, so I slip the word to the imperial guards to have them snuck Yan Xiao Wu in with them. He has been following my grandfather and me for a long time, so most of the people in the palace know him and there is no security risk. I pay ten tael of silver to settle everything, but Yan Xiao Wu is harder to settle. He says: “The clothes are too ugly!”
I drag Yan Xiao Wu away from the black-faced imperial guards.
“During the hunting, the emperor, general Hua and the envoy from Western Liang will be in front. I’ll follow from further behind and you’ll follow by my side. Do you understand?” I fix my attention at Yan Xiao Wu.
Yan Xiao Wu tugs on his ears, looks at the map with a frown and also looks at me. “In that case, I can’t go hunting?”
“Better don’t go hunting.” I calmly put away the map, “If by any chance you accidentally shoot a girl, your whole life would be ruined. Even if you didn’t shoot a girl but shot a chick or bunny, it is also taking the life of a living creature. Grandfather who is six feet under will spurn you.”
Yan Xiao Wu gloomily sits on the ground, holding his spear. Eventually, he still unwillingly follows me to go out.
Fu Chun brings a horse for me and says with a smile: “This is Taxue, the most docile horse. His Majesty knows imperial physician Song is not good at riding, so he specially ordered to look for a docile horse for you.”
I touch the horse’s neck, and that horse in turn rubs against me. Indeed docile and also with a spiritual nature. I happily say: “Thanks a lot eunuch Fu Chun.”
“His Majesty is the one who is being considerate.” When Fu Chun was going, he gives a meaningful smile.
Yan Xiao Wu’s eyes sparkle when he touches the horse, “Indeed a precious horse, looks really handsome ……”
“Do you like it? Do you want me to help you to ask for it?” I look askance at him. He shakes his head, “I like it a little, but still not good enough. We menfolk still want to personally go to the grassland to tame the most fierce champion horse. This kind of horse is only suitable for a lady to ride.”
“Go!” I slap him and say, “Help me to get on the horse.”
Yan Xiao Wu has no human rights in front of me. Muttering to himself, he obeys my command and goes to get a horse which seems comparatively inferior (inferior horses are believed to be stronger).
At this time, Liu Xi appears, leading three thousand imperial guards and accompanying the Western Liang envoy.
This is the first time I see a person from Western Liang. From a distance, I cannot see clearly but it is obvious his body size is bigger than us, the people of Chen country. His voice is also a lot louder and clearer, giving the impression of the atmosphere of the vast northern grasslands. In contrast, Liu Xi who is from the southern Chen country is exquisite and gentle like a world of shimming green hills and clear azure water.
There is another person next to Liu Xi. He looks arrogant and seems over thirty years of age. He appears stiff and his forehead is quite similar to imperial concubine Hua, so he must be General Hua.
I do not know what both sides are saying. I only hear the Western Liang envoy laughing. He is from the defeated country. It can even be said that the whole Western Liang military was wiped out. Yet the envoy can still laugh heartily like this …… really …… quite a character!
“Yan Xiao Wu.” I look around and ask, “Do you think something will happen today?”
Yan Xiao Wu holds up and aims the bow at all directions. Finally it is aimed at me and he says: “You are going to die ……”
“I’ll spray you to death with a mouthful of Huoxiang Zhengqi Shui!” (It’s a Chinese herbal medicine that is actually from modern times. It’s supposed to be a joke.)
If I am not on the horse, I will surely slap him on the face.
“However, with a chivalrous hero here, you won’t die so easily.” He laughs and wields the spear a few times.
At this moment, Liu Xi gives the order and three thousand imperial guards let loose their hooves and start galloping furiously…… Um, wait, that is not quite accurate. It should be, three thousand imperial guards spur on their horses and gallop furiously, like dogs gone wild off their leashes or a chariot racing rapidly pull by four madly galloping horses.
I blend in with the imperial guards and hear loud cheers. Then the deafening roar of Long live our King, fully demonstrates our country’s dominance as the host.
Yan Xiao Wu scratches his head, wishing he could have wings to hunt two bears back. I remain unmoved and say: “Stay calm, stay calm ……”
“I also want to play ……” Yan Xiao Wu looks at me like he is nursing a grievance.
I think for a while then say: “There are two days for hunting. If nothing happens today, I’ll let you go and play tomorrow.”
Yan Xiao Wu’s eyes light up and says: “You can’t go back on your words!”
I wave my hand and say: “So troublesome, some more acting annoying like a girl! And you’re guy, too!”
Presumably God also wants to let Yan Xiao Wu plays because everything runs smoothly today. Liu Xi caught a roe deer and a deer during the hunting, for the sake of appearances. After resting for a while, he gets people around him to fully display his capabilities. General Hua caught a bear. Not to be outdone, the envoy from Western Liang shoots at whatever he sees, very savage.
At night, they put up tents in the area around the hunting ground. Cooking the animals hunted during daytime, the bonfire party begins. All the soldiers make merry together. Liu Xi smilingly drinks a few rounds of wine, then leaves first to let the rest of the people enjoy freely.
I am halfway through my meal, when Fu Chun comes to call me again, saying Liu Xi is not feeling well. I wipe my greasy hands and hurriedly follow him. Before leaving, I turn around and shout at Yan Xiao Wu: “Leave some for me, I’ve not eaten my fill yet!”
Later, he faithfully leaves me some deer penis. He says how difficult it was for him to grab them from a group of people and how nutritious they are —— Yeah, right, on behalf of my grandfather, I thank his ancestor.
The faint smell of alcohol permeates the air in Liu Xi’s tent. Both of his cheeks are flushed red. There is a moist glimmer in his eyes. It is obvious he is 70% drunk.
I say bluntly: “If you continue to let me treat you, sooner or later, even if you are not ill, will also become ill. My grandfather said I am a butcher which I agree wholeheartedly.”
He looked up at me, his sharp gaze seems to nail me to the spot. My instinct tells me —— there is a trap in front!
He says coldly: “Come here.”
I take half a step back.
“I command you to come here.” His eyes are so bright they cause people to be wary.
“I ……” I look around but there is nobody. I want to run away but there is no door. I do not think I have done anything wrong, right?
Before I could think clearly, he is already impatient, staggers two steps forward to grasp my wrist. I did not expect him to have such strength to the extent that I cannot break free.
I admit that I am terrified now. Once he shows his fierceness, I will be terrified. I say with a smiling face: “Your Majesty, you better sit properly. Your humble servant will feel your pulse now.”
He gives a smile but I do not know whether it is a sneer or a jeer. Anyhow it is not a happy smile. He holds on to my hand without releasing it. He is sitting on the couch, so I cannot even bend over. I have no other option but to sit on the ground.
“Your Majesty, where do you feel unwell?” I ask cautiously.
He is silent for a short period of time and says in a low voice: “You let Yan Xiao Wu into the palace?”
Oh, Yan Xiao Wu ……
“Today is hunting day. I worry something will happen so I let him into the palace to protect me …… you ……” I think if I said to protect me only, a little lack of respect for the emperor, so I added His Majesty.
However he seems to have ignored that last word. He narrows his eyes and glares at me. “Do you think that I cannot protect you?”
“No, no ……” I did not think before answering, always deny first then say again later. His question was asked too soon as I did not have time to sort out the logic. Thus I can only rely on spontaneous response —— flattery! “Your Majesty is so outstandingly wise and strong. With three thousand imperial guards who cannot be beaten at war, nobody can create chaos in front of Your Majesty! Therefore you simply don’t need protection!”
“In that case, why did Yan Xiao Wu come to the palace?” He continues to question intensely.
“He …… he came to the palace to play! He wants to go hunting so he begged me! I agreed since he is a friend!”
“He begged you and you agreed?”
“Ah …… ah ……” I do not know how to answer, can only say ‘ah’.
“Will you agree to everything he begs you?”
“I certainly have principles, cannot agree to everything!”
“Then if I beg you, will you agree?”
“Ah?” I blink and immediately continue to say, “Your Majesty, you are the 9 and 5 reign supreme (according to ancient Chinese beliefs, the number 9 ranks as the highest number and the number 5 is a ‘middle’ , or ‘central’ number. Thus 9 and 5 together came to be regarded as a supreme combination which symbolized the emperor), why need to beg people! Your words are imperial edict which nobody in this world dares to disrespect!”
He pauses and gives a fake smile. “But in your eyes, you don’t even pay any attention or hold any respect for me.”
I blurt out. “Because your humble servant holds Your Majesty in her heart instead!”
His eyes brighten up and stare fixedly at me. His breathing has become hurried. “Really?”
I am merely flattering him. He will not take it seriously, right …… but I’d already thrown out my flattery and the boot licking had already been accepted, so I cannot stop now…… I force myself to say: “Of, of course ……”
“Ling Shu ……” the grip on her wrist has loosened. He slowly approaches, bringing the sweet smell of alcohol more and more close. I move backward but is pulled forward by an arm, which I do not know when had wrapped around my lower back. Then a warm lips lightly touch my forehead.
I feel stiff all over the body. Both of my hands are placed on his chest, so I can clearly feel the intense movements of his chest but I do not know what is to be done. Push him away …… Will I die more tragically?
“Your Majesty …… your humble servant will feel your pulse, all ……” He bites the last word with the tip of his tongue.
The hold on both of my arms tightens. Hot temperature penetrates the clothes, ironing my body. Warm lips and tongue, rapid breathing and sudden giddiness with the head spinning. In a moment of dizzied confusion, I am overpowered as he presses me down onto the couch with his body on me. I cannot catch my breath because of the pressure on my chest, and a pair of arms roves over my back, igniting flame after flame everywhere it touched……..
When I am about to be suffocated to death, I hear a low and hoarse voice saying: “Breathe.”
A lot of stars are circling above my head ……
“Ling Shu breathes.” Someone is slapping my face.
Yan Xiao Wu is right. I am going to die……
4 of 7 Main story segments