An email in my inbox last night had successfully convinced me to continue translating from where others have left off and return back to where I last left off later on. For any new readers, please note that my translation is by no means perfect not only because I have not had my wonderful (professional) friends edit, and also because I am an ABC using this as a means of improving my own Chinese skills as well. I try to do my best and avoid comma splices, but because of the speed of this translation, I’m sure I have missed a few here and there. I welcome (kind) suggestions and corrections. My translations may be slightly different from others out there, and not quite as good, but I love both the NiF novel and drama and would like to do what little I can to contribute to the English speaking fan community.
Chapter 110: Rising Winds, Coming Storms
In a fury, the Emperor left the Eastern Palace’s Changxin Hall, refusing a carriage and support from anyone. As he did so in a hurry, he suddenly felt his vision go black and fell straight backwards just as he arrived at Yongfeng Hall. Fortunately, Meng Zhi swiftly rushed over to support him, and no harm was done. Gao Zhan quickly pulled out a soothing incense box from his sleeve and blew some of the powdered medicine towards the Emperor’s nose. With a sneeze, he regained consciousness and could see clearly again through his slightly red eyes.
“Your majesty…” Meng Zhi carefully patted the Emperor’s back to allow him to regain his breath, and supported him to sit on a rock nearby, slowly urging, “Your royal health is the most important of all, please take care of yourself.”
The Emperor took the handkerchief that Gao Zhan passed him, and wiped his face and eyes. More than half of his body weight was supported on Meng Zhi’s arm, and he was breathing heavily. It took a long time before the fury within him gradually subsided, yet it was then replaced with a cold feeling of sorrow and disappointment. An uncontrollable tear fell from his eye, and he bent over to cough, the wrinkles on his slightly yellow face seemingly becoming deeper.
“General Meng …The Eastern Palace has such resent, have I…really done something wrong?”
Caught off guard by this question, Meng Zhi stared blankly and was unsure of how to respond. Being the General Commander of the imperial guards for the Emperor, he had been by his side for quite some time. However, during all these years, he had only seen the Emperor control and balance the powers of his sons and officials using many different means and tactics. Never had he seen the Emperor doubt himself in such a way and seem so powerless, withered, and dejected–as if he were just an ordinary father. Seeing the Emperor’s graying hairs, trembling, wrinkled hands, and unfocused, cloudy eyes, he could not help but recall the days when the Emperor was once ruthless, decisive, and commanding. Meng Zhi felt as if he were in a daze, as the person in front of him felt strangely unfamiliar.
Maybe, as people age, they really do begin to change…
“Your majesty, with the Eastern Palace, you would like to…” Meng Zhi had only asked half of his question, when he realized that it was quite inappropriate, and hurried to swallow back the rest of it.
The Emperor raised his sleeve to dab his tears, clenched his jaw for a long time, and as he was evidently rather hesitant, no one dared to question any further. An entire pot of tea’s time had passed before he opened his mouth to command, “What has happened today, is strictly prohibited from being revealed to others. Keep it a secret for now.”
This command was unexpected from both Meng Zhi and Gao Zhan, yet neither one showed it on their faces, silently accepting the order. Yet the Emperor was not one to easily forgive, and thus after a long period of silence, added, “Beginning from right now, place a ban on the Eastern Palace, no one is allowed to enter or leave.”
Meng Zhi asked hesitantly, “Including the Crown Prince?”
“Including the Crown Prince!” The Emperor’s tone was bitter and very determined, “The Crown Prince’s Three Ministers*, without a decree, is not to visit either. Meng Zhi, you will be in charge of this matter.”
“Your majesty, please forgive me,” Meng Zhi knelt down and continued, “Confining the Crown Prince is a great matter, and it is hard for me to fulfill this task with merely a verbal command. May your majesty please provide me with a royal decree.”
The Emperor looked at him, and was just about to speak when Gao Zhan suddenly said, “Your majesty, the Crown Prince has followed over here and is kneeling by the Xianye Pond, would you like to see him?”
“…Tell him to go back, right now I am… I don’t wish to see him…” The Emperor closed his eyes, sounding exhausted. “Bring the carriage over here and return to the palace…”
“Your majesty,” Meng Zhi seemed quite anxious, “I…”
“Call the carriage!” Gao Zhan’s sharp, almost ear-piercing voice sounded again, interrupting Meng Zhi’s words.
At this time, the Emperor rose, and trembled as he stepped onto the carriage, shaking and unsteady. Under Gao Zhan’s direction, a few eunuchs came over to help, allowing the Emperor to sit down and settle in.
“Your majesty…” Meng Zhi waited for him to sit down and was about to speak again when Gao Zhan raised his voice, completely covering Meng Zhi’s voice while saying, “Raise the carriage!” When Meng Zhi furrowed his eyebrows and took a step closer, the Emperor was already leaning against the pillow in the carriage, waving his hand with his eyes closed.
The obvious distress on his face and hand gestures made it evident that he did not want to be disturbed by anyone. Although Meng Zhi felt a little helpless, he knew not to continue asking, and thus knelt down to see the Emperor’s carriage off.
After the royal carriage left, the Eastern Palace was deathly solemn. Meng Zhi suppressed the overwhelming feelings he had and immediately worked to make the necessary arrangements. It was not hard to keep the happenings at the Changxin Hall a secret as there were not many people present in the first place, and he could easily ban the imperial guards from speaking about the happenings. Gao Zhan would ensure that the servants of the inner court do the same, and of course the Eastern Palace guards would not dare to say anything, so completely sealing off the information was very simple.
However, it was more difficult to prohibit everyone from entering and leaving the Eastern Palace. The Crown Prince himself knew exactly why the restriction was placed, and in despair, did not dare to make any more trouble. Since he stayed silent, everyone else in the Eastern Palace was even more afraid to cause any commotion, and thus the greatest difficulty came from the people on the outside. The others were not too hard to deal with, but the Crown Prince’s Three Ministers always came to see him everyday, and although they were not involved in the battle for the throne, they were very dedicated in fulfilling their duties. If the Crown Prince had any wrongdoings, they would be the first ones to be fiercely scolded, and when the Crown Palace was moved to the Guijia Palace, they were the ones who did the best they could to protect him. Such quaintly dutiful ministers no longer had any power in the court, and did not hold the same importance as they did in the former dynasty. The Crown Prince respected them, yet did not rely on them, and Prince Yu valued them, yet was not the slightest bit afraid of them. Most of the time, they were only symbolic–they did not play much of a role in the true games and schemes of wit and deception in the battle for the throne. But regardless of whether or not they really held any power, they were still the teachers of the Crown Prince. With merely “a verbal command” and no further details as an explanation, it was difficult for Meng Zhi to restrain them from entering. Anyways, with such breaking news that a ban was placed on the Eastern Palace and Crown Prince, for there to not even have been an imperial decree, it was inevitable that people would question it.
After being questioned by the Three Ministers for two whole hours, Meng Zhi, with a dry tongue and parched throat, realized that his approach was too foolish. Why reason with them? This was not the time for a debate, and even more, this was not a matter for him to debate in the first place–his approach had been wrong this whole time.
After this epiphany, Meng Zhi immediately realized what he should do. Using an excuse to leave, he ordered a few rather impetuous soldiers to guard the gates of the palace, and informed them that regardless of what anyone says, simply respond with, “it is the verbal command of the Emperor.” If anyone tried to reason with these soldiers, it was clear that one side could not clearly communicate what had happened, and the other side could not understand. The Three Ministers were so exasperated that they asked the soldiers to bring Meng Zhi to them, yet the soldiers only blankly responded that they “were not qualified to call for the General Commander,” and refused to move. The three elderly teachers were so furious that they began to feel lightheaded.
Successfully avoiding the Eastern Palace officials and elderly ministers, Meng Zhi felt a little more at ease, and returned to the palace to arrange shifts. He replaced his most trusted guards who were on duty, and moved them to guard the Eastern Palace. Fortunately, after returning to the palace, the Emperor felt ill and was resting at the Zhiluo Palace. He had not moved since he first arrived there, making it much easier for Meng Zhi. Around noon the next day, the news that the Crown Prince had a ban placed upon him had slowly started to spread, and several parties came to inquire. The Eastern Palace was unable to be entered, the Head Internal Supervisor Gao Zhan kept everyone strictly quiet, and the imperial guards were unrelenting as well. Yet the more that there was no reliable source of information, the more peculiar the situation seemed. Prince Yu did not even bother to keep his distance to avoid rumors, and personally went to visit Meng Zhi, looking to receive some more information. However, he was unsuccessful as Meng Zhi was not to be found at either the Meng Prefecture or the General Prefecture. Thinking that General Meng may have been on duty, Prince Yu looked for him in the inner court, yet he was not there either–he seemed to have disappeared without a trace.
Not knowing the real reasons made it difficult to formulate necessary countermeasures. The Emperor was ill and did not call for the court, only allowing Consort Jing to attend upon him, even rejecting to see Noble Consort Yue. Unable to determine the attitudes of the Emperor, those who were planning on protecting the Crown Prince nor those making matters worse for him dared to take any actions. There were all sorts of strange rumors being passed around, and the court was a complete mess.
Of course, no one knew the whereabouts of one of the most important figures in all of these happenings, Meng Zhi, but it was sure that he could not possibly have just disappeared into thin air. The first-ranked martial arts expert in Da Liang that no one could find was standing in the middle of Prince Jing’s bedroom, and when faced with the startled owner of the room, he gestured at him appeasingly.
“Rest assured, your highness, no one saw me come here,” Meng Zhi whispered, “The happenings of the Eastern Palace, I thought it would be best for me to report it to you.”
Prince Jing had always been a calm and composed person, and had experienced quite a lot lately, so he quickly regained his composure. After instructing a trusted subordinate not to let anyone in, he pulled Meng Zhi to the inner room, opened the door to the secret passageway and said, “Tell me after we see Su-xiansheng, otherwise you will have to repeat it again anyway.”
Agreeing, Meng Zhi followed Prince Jing into the secret passageway, entering the secret chamber that he had already visited several times before. Prince Jing lightly pulled the bell on the wall, notifying Mei Changsu of his arrival. Yet after waiting twice as long as usual, the advisor still did not appear, causing the two in the chamber to feel slightly uneasy, especially since they were unable to directly enter to see exactly why he had not responded.
Another incense stick had finished burning as they waited, and there were finally sounds of movement coming from the Su Manor. However, even Prince Jing, whose martial arts were not as skilled as Meng Zhi, could evidently tell that the footsteps following the sound of the door did not belong to Mei Changsu.
Sure enough, within a second, Fei Liu’s young and handsome face appeared from the entrance of the secret chamber, and he coldly and rigidly said, “Wait!”
Meng Zhi looked at Prince Jing, and seeing that he did not seem angry, took a step forward and asked, “Fei Liu, did your Su-gege ask you to come here?”
“Where is Su-gege?”
“Outside in the bedroom?”
“In the living room?”
Meng Zhi seemed to have a general understanding now, continuing, “Is someone here to talk to your Su-gege?”
Startled, Meng Zhi asked, “You said, who?”
“Poisonous snake!” Fei Liu did not enjoy answering the same question twice, and impatiently glared at him.
Meng Zhi thought for a moment, and confirmed, “Is it Prince Yu?”
After hearing this much, Prince Jing and Meng Zhi were now both clear of what had happened, and felt slightly more at ease. Fei Liu stood near the door, and carefully examined the two people in the room with no intention of leaving. Prince Jing suddenly had an idea, and waved his hand towards Fei Liu, asking, “Fei Liu, why do you call Prince Yu, poisonous snake?”
Prince Jing had seen the method of interaction between Mei Changsu and Fei Liu many times before, and had generally figured out the thought process of this young man, guessing, “Su-gege told you that he is a poisonous snake?”
“Do you know why Su-gege calls him poisonous snake?”
“You know?” Prince Jing was rather surprised by this unexpected answer. “Why?”
“Who…who is disgusting? Prince Yu?”
Prince Jing and Meng Zhi looked at one another, neither one understanding what he meant. After thinking for a long time, Prince Jing thought of a reasonable explanation: “Fei Liu, what you mean, is not that Su-gege is disgusting, but that after seeing Prince Yu, he feels very disgusted, right?”
Prince Jing looked around, and suddenly curious, he followed up with the question, “If Prince Yu is poisonous snake, then what am I?”
Fei Liu tilted his head in thought, not breaking eye contact as he slowly said, “Water buffalo.”
Meng Zhi almost choked, saying, “Water buffalo? Why would you think his highness Prince Jing is a water buffalo?”
“You don’t know?” Meng Zhi was really confused now. “Did you just randomly choose the words water buffalo for his highness?”
At this point, there was not a hint of a smile on Prince Jing’s face, yet he seemed calm.“I’m thinking, Fei Liu means that he doesn’t know why Su-gege calls me water buffalo.”
Meng Zhi’s heart jumped, and he hurried to defend Mei Changsu, saying, “That can’t be, Su-xiansheng is a very prudent person, how could he come up with nicknames for your highness? That doesn’t suit his personality.”
Prince Jing faintly responded, “Maybe Su-xiansheng has a side that we do not know? Anyways, he is not the first to call me water buffalo. In the past, my eldest royal brother…And xiao-Shu, they all called me this. They often said that I did not like drinking tea and only liked drinking water, and since I was also stubborn like a buffalo, I seemed to be just like a water buffalo.”
Now, Meng Zhi was so scared that he was holding his breath, and the muscles on his face became stiff, as if he did not know what kind of expression he should make. There was no harm in his temporary loss of composure though, as right at this moment, Mei Changsu walked in. Prince Jing’s attention was drawn to him, and he stared fixedly at his advisor.
“I apologize for being late. Prince Yu had come to discuss some matters, and he left just now.” Mei Changsu was in the middle of explaining when he saw the strange expression on both Prince Jing and Meng Zhi’s faces, and immediately felt that the atmosphere within the chamber was off, asking, “What’s wrong? Were you all… talking about something just now?”
“Not much,” Prince Jing said, staring straight into Mei Changsu’s eyes, and with a very light tone of voice continued, “We were talking about…water buffalos….”
*Crown Prince’s Three Ministers: The Crown Prince has three ministers, all of the highest level rank, being the Taishi, Taifu, and Taibao. The three ministers were in charge of educating the Crown Prince, and were normally highly respected teachers.