“I want to see His Highness the prince,” Lady Xu said to Zhao Fu, who stood before her as she lay on a bed in the warm tent. The imperial physicians had left, the palace maid and eunuch who served her had also disappeared, and Lady Xu felt panic stemming from unknown origins.
Zhao Fu looked at this woman who had been determined by Emperor Xing Wu to have acted without scruples towards the imperial heir. It was a pity that such a beautiful person’s life was but a chess piece, and one to be disposed of after use.
“The prince?” Lady Xu saw that Zhao Fu didn’t speak, and set her gaze on Fu Yun instead as he stood behind Zhao Fu. “Where is his highness? Why didn’t he come to see me?”
Fu Yun lowered his head. Long Xuan had not yet established a wife (T/N: as opposed to a concubine/consort). Under ordinary circumstances, though this Xu clan’s matrilineal side had been extinguished, it still held half the ownership of the Hall of Literary Transcendence. Long Xuan’s treatment of Lady Xu, though it couldn’t be said to be loving, normally held the due respect. Fu Yun had always regarded Lady Xu as his mistress, and had never thought that she would end up like this.
“Lady Xu has received orders,” Zhao Fu stood in front of Xu’s bed and stated with official import.
Lady Xu couldn’t get up, and Fu Yun hurriedly stepped forward to help her sit up.
“Consort Xu’s health is weak,” Zhao Fu said. “Just kneel on the bed to pick up the imperial edict.”
Lady Xu knelt on the bed. She didn’t have the slightest clue about what had happened outside. Although the atmosphere in the tent was strange, up until this moment in time she thought that Emperor Xing Wu had sent an edict meant to console her for the loss of her son.
Zhao Fu passed on Emperor Xing Wu’s orders. For a mere consort of a prince, the emperor had no need to personally communicate his will.
After listening to a few lines of this edict, Lady Xu raised her head in stupefaction–or perhaps the gaze that she cast upon Zhao Fu could be described as vacant. The words falling from this head eunuch’s mouth, linked together into sentences, what was their meaning? Why could she not understand? What was “arrogance from receiving favor?” What was “turning one’s back on virtue and lacking warmth?” And what could be the meaning of “rash actions in the care of an imperial son?”
“Commit suicide, to warn others against following bad examples,” Zhao Fu finished the last sentence of the order.
She didn’t understand the previous sentences, but this one Lady Xu could understand. This one asked for her death!
“Consort Xu, let’s get on the road,” Zhao Fu said coldly. He then loudly called out: “Come in, send Consort Xu on the road!” (T/N: sending someone on the road is a euphemism for sending to death).
Four eunuchs walked into the warm tent. Poisoned wine and white damask silk lay in their hands. (T/N: author wrote turtledove wine. The character for turtledove looks similar to the character used for poisoned wine. I assumed the correct character should be the one for poison.)
Watching the poisoned wine in the jade cup reaching her lips, Lady Xu seemed to come to a sudden realization. She struck out a hand and knocked the cup over, struggling to leave the bed. “I want to see His Highness the prince!” She shouted loudly. Upon arriving at this moment in time, she still held hope for Long Xuan. It must be that her prince did not know of this matter, otherwise how could he watch as she was ordered to commit suicide?
“Stop her!” Zhao Fu said, standing aside with his arms tucked in his sleeves.
“Highness!” Lady Xu yelled at the entrance of the tent. “Your Highness, save me!”
“Hurry up,” Zhao Fu urged. He saw Fu Yun standing to the side, motionless, and said to him again, “Go and help, this is your household’s prince’s desire.”
In Lady Xu’s frenzy, she didn’t hear Zhao Fu’s last few words. She struggled to run under the hands of several eunuchs, as if as long as she found Long Xuan, she could find a supporter. (T/N: “supporter,” literal characters: “mountain [to] support [her].”)
Fu Yun came forward and heartlessly wrapped Lady Xu’s neck with his hands.
“This concubine was wrongly accused!” Lady Xu’s cries tore at her heart and split her lungs. “Your Highness!” Long Xuan clearly told her that they would have children again in the future. He said he would be good to her; how did circumstances change like this?
“Consort Xu, have a good journey on the road.” Zhao Fu gave a few words of farewell, still standing at the side.
The poisoned wine entered her throat, bitingly spiced, tart, and bitter. Lady Xu’s two eyes opened to roundness as she gazed at the tent entrance, but Long Xuan never appeared.
Fu Yun ran out of the warm tent and looked for Long Xuan everywhere. He had to tell his master the news of Consort Xu’s death.
“Where is His Highness now?” Fu Yun asked one of Long Xuan’s guards.
The imperial bodyguard pointed at the mountain forest behind him, “His Highness said that he wanted to calm down, and went into the mountain.”
“Then his guards won’t follow?”
“His Highness did not allow for it.”
Fu Yun stomped his feet. He didn’t have the energy to say words of reproach such as asking the guards how they would bear the responsibility if Long Xuan entered alone and met with an accident. Fu Yun brought people into the mountain. He believed that his master had no alternative besides abandoning Consort Xu. His master was not such a cold and ruthless person.
In the forest, the mantles of snow upon the tips of branches had not yet melted. All was quiet; great torrents of snow falling for days on end had done away with the birds in the forest.
Long Xuan stood under a pine tree, and Luo Wei stood opposite him.
“Why are you looking for me?” Luo Wei asked Long Xuan.
“Don’t you also have something to tell me?” Long Xuan replied.
Luo Wei looked at the white snow under his feet and knit his brow. This annoying white snow. “No matter what, that was someone you shared a bed with. You won’t even send her on her way?” (T/N: figuratively, “sharing a bed” = “married to.”)
“A sinner. Why should I go to send her?”
“Sinner?” Luo Wei looked around and said, “Your Highness still has to be careful when you speak. When a person dies the ghost will be there, don’t let a dead person grieve once more.”
“I never believed in ghosts or gods,” Long Xuan coldly answered.
“But I believe,” Luo Wei said. “Consort Xu was sent on the road, and she should still be able to catch up with her son on the way to the Yellow Springs (T/N: Chinese underworld). The mother and son will walk together to the Yellow Springs, having a companion in each other. I hope that that mother and son pair, when it comes time for them to reincarnate, will keep clear-eyed and be on their guard. I hope they can place themselves in the hands of a household that will treat them with sincerity.”
“Yeah,” Long Xuan said, “when they return to this world they should not cast themselves into the imperial family again.”
“Second prince,” Luo Wei laughed with mockery, “These words when coming out of your mouth really seem like a joke.”
“It is like a joke,” Long Xuan said. “But Luo Wei, you are an official inquiring about the medical cases in the palace. Don’t you think you are playing with fire?”
“Your subordinate can’t understand what Your Highness is saying,” Luo Wei replied. “If there is evidence in Your Highness’ hands, you can go to the emperor and denounce your humble servant, and have him meet with the law.”
“Imperial Physician Lin’s mouth is too tightly sealed,” Long Xuan said.
It seemed that Imperial Physician Lin had already fallen into Long Xuan’s hands, and Luo Wei’s face became ice cold. “Imperial Physician Lin? Does this humble servant know him?”
Long Xuan laughed, and with a smile on his face, his entire person seemed to become softer. “Luo Wei, his entire family is in your hands. Would you not know Imperial Physician Lin? Say, when he arrives at the road to the Yellow Springs, who will accompany him?”
“Your Highness, the heavens watch the actions of people. I am not afraid of meeting with retribution. I am only afraid that the debts Your Highness will incur in the future will be ones he cannot repay!!”
“In a person’s life, he must incur debt. I have not thought to repay it.”
Luo Wei was speechless. That’s right, this was Long Xuan, did he ever consider others?
“Yun Qi,” Long Xuan called Luo Wei by his courtesy name. “You don’t want to know what your Crown Prince was doing while your second elder brother was in custody, and while your father knelt before my Emperor Father in that big tent, bitterly pleading?”
Luo Wei looked at Long Xuan.
“My imperial elder brother was comforting me for the loss of my son, saying that he was also sad, and that he hoped that I would not grieve too much, otherwise the child would not feel comfortable on the road,” Long Xuan continued. “Yun Qi, isn’t this more like a joke?”