The Reluctant Empress…
“Empress, please…” Nai Nai protested. Her tone was coaxing, and soft but the strain in her tense voice precisely conveyed her worry as she urged, “You should stop now or at least take a break! If Heavenly Lord knew you were inflicting yourself pain, he would be furious but more so, he would be heartbroken!”
Bai Qian’s eyes stayed focused on her task at hand, feeling glad she had a reason to avoid the servant’s gaze. Regardless of all her earnest applications, it still made her cringe and feel unsettled to either see or hear Nai Nai, because the first time she again saw the girl who had once loyally served her, she had nearly collapsed from fright.
Nobody knew, her uncontrollable discomfort being around the woman was mainly because Nai Nai was someone Bai Qian not only believed to be dead. But had also felt responsible for her passing and of course, after discovering the truth, Nai Nai’s twin sister’s death heavily weighed on her, so being around her was still a source of uneasiness.
In truth, it wasn’t only Nai Nai that had her feeling uncomfortable enough to avoid, but Bai Qian had been evading the Sky Lord just the same if not more, and fortuitously for the reluctant Empress with much more success. Her endeavors of dodging? No, ‘hiding‘ from her children’s father hadn’t been in vain, resulted in her not having to spend even five minutes with him in total, and never solely alone without one of the children present.
“My dear, I’m nearly finished. And Heavenly Lord isn’t in Nine Heavens, hence, there isn’t any need for him to find out or become upset.” Bai Qian replied without looking up at the anxious woman before suddenly asking, “Did Second Prince Yingpei eat anything today? Did you make sure they served all his favorites?”
“Certainly, Empress. Nai Nai made sure to tell everyone your orders, though…” Nai Nai explained, “Second Prince refused to get out of the wet bed even though he had an accident in it, or eat anything. And the Emperor has returned from his discussions, but went directly to visit with First Prince A-Li and Princess Changchang.”
The brush in her hand, Bai Qian set down and asked, “Not Yingpei? His Grace didn’t go to Yingpei and comfort him?”
“No, not yet, Empress, but I’m sure he will. One can’t blame him for wanting to spend extra time with such an affectionate princess, who calls him ‘Daddy’ and hangs on him from the moment she sets her sights on him. Heavenly Lord has 400 years of catching up to do.” Nai Nai conversed cheerfully. It was obvious she too had been affected by Changchang’s infectious charm.
“Yes, however, Changchang is not suffering without her mother…” She sighed, “The poor little babe. How afraid Yingpei must be…” Bai Qian murmured as another swift prick and like blood rubies, the little gem-like specks appeared on the bruised surface of her skin, then fattened as she applied pressure on her digit.
The opaque balloon shaped, the thick bulbous drops of maroon colored liquid dripped into the inkwell, as the dark liquid directly landed on the older, the drier coagulated remnants from her previous bloodletting. The Sutra of Filial Piety or Sutra on the Profundity of Filial Love, Sutra on Parental Benevolence was rewritten entirely in her blood.
Five full days and nights had passed, since Bai Qian started this endeavor that would forever tie her to Dongmei’s karma. It was for Heavenly Lord’s banished second wife, but it was also for herself, since reproducing the new text directly over the old scroll of numbers found in Dongmei’s bedroom felt like a release of whatever resentment she had held within.
And choosing to compose the characters in her blood was to show her concern as well as her heart’s intentions, but the peaks of every single finger on her throbbing hands weren’t as gratified as her inner peace. She whimpered as Bai Qian sucked her deeply bruised, and repetitively pin pricked fingertips, when the taboo conversation came drifting into her ears.
In the immense flower brimming courtyard of the Empress’s palace the Pavilion of Peonies, the gossiping Celestial Swans were jabbering loosely thinking they were out of everyone’s earshot. The faint murmurs were mere whispers, but her sensitive Fox’s hearing made it possible for Bai Qian to eavesdrop with full clarity.
“Of course, she’ll be put to death! She failed to follow and obey a wife’s filial piety to her husband, hence, bringing burden but mainly bodily harm to Heavenly Lord. Such a disloyal act deserves the death sentence!”
“I heard her punishment to consume 400 doses of the same medicine she had been feeding the Sky Lord, it was Her Royal Highness, Second Princess Changying, who commanded and formulated the punishment personally. She’s a born healer. High God Zhe Yan’s one and only disciple.”
“It’s her karma that the little princess would recreate the poison our Lord consumed. It nearly killed him! The half-mortal is so evil, and made it so the Sky Lord didn’t know that he was the princess’s birth father!”
“And after she drinks every potion, she’s going to be sent back to Qing Qiu to face the additional criminal charges of treason along with grand larceny against the imperial family. It’s unfortunate Qing Qiu doesn’t apply death sentences because they deem it inhumane.”
“What does it matter, she’s as good as dead anyways? Our Lord refuses to ever set his sight on her again, and had her very existence wiped clean from the archives. If anyone even speaks her name, they will get sent into the mortal world for one hundred years, and become condemned just like her.”
It was pathetic how all of Dongmei’s struggles and tribulations had become nothing but a topic of idle gossip for the world, before she and her memory would fade into oblivion. The only fruit of her great labor was Yingpei since the Sky Lord, the man she gave it all up for, had condemned her.
It was her karma. Through her malicious behaviors, she had brought it on herself, that’s what Bai Qian told herself. However, when she considered young Yingpei’s fate, it was a cause for great concern and her spirit to feel depressed, full of sorrow. In the end, it was the person Dongmei most betrayed, who was the only one who was brave enough, or cared enough to defy Heavenly Lord’s royal mandate.
The clanking racket of the chains unlocking, and coming off the doors was the only sounds she had heard in days, especially since Ye Hua proclaimed speaking to her or saying her name be to a crime.
Dongmei was a dead person in the eyes of everyone in the world. And after days of solitude, the voice she heard was the voice of her enemy, Bai Qian herself. “Open the doors and allow this room to air out.” She ordered, “Get some servants to clean, bring a couch or better yet, deliver a bed with clean linens so Consort doesn’t have to sit on the dirty floor all day. Consort Dongmei is still the mother of the prince.”
Dongmei shaded her eyes with her hand above her brows, and took in the sight of her before she suddenly started to giggle like a raving lunatic. Because it was madness, incomprehensible but the bitch had become more beautiful over the years… How was that even possible?
Seeing her again was worse than the death sentence. Unlike the bright shades she had favored in the past; Bai Qian wore a soft taupe gown giving her the appearance of a Celestial. The dark beige gossamer fabric embellished with gold, silvery flowers was sheer and revealed her delicate shoulders and arms, but it was ever refined and reserved.
With her long, silky hair in a neat bun low at her graceful swan-like neck, and the slightest nuances of cosmetics had kissed her perfect face. Bai Qian looked as an Empress should, perhaps because she was the rightful Empress. Not even with all the gold, and wealth in the world could Dongmei have looked as majestic or magnificent.
And if she had the opportunity, Dongmei would have killed every one of her overpaid informants, who sent misleading stories about how Bai Qian had turned into a trampy looking woman. They reported that she was heavily made up with excessive use of too many beautifiers, and clothed provocatively like a scantily dressed tart.
Mo Yuan’s beautiful ‘cum-dumpster’ one had called her. Dongmei had relished and laughed at that unflattering nickname for months, years. But then it shouldn’t have surprised her. Only Bai Qian with her royal, blue blood filled veins could walk through shit for four centuries, be forced to sexually service an older man three times her age, and come out sparkling like a flawless diamond or pure, untouched virgin.
“Bai Qian, you look good and unspoiled. Not too shabby at all considering you’ve been riding Mo Yuan all this time. So, is it time to switch brothers again?” Dongmei couldn’t help herself, and it was well worth it to see the servant’s expressions of shock. But it wasn’t fully satisfying since Bai Qian was unresponsive.
Instead, she came near and set down a scroll. Not just any manuscript but the one Dongmei was supposed to deliver to Ye Hua. It was the proof of her betrayal staring back at her, as the document rotated on the flat ground circling, tumbling to her right, revealed was the dark maroon colored, the newly written calligraphy covering, overpowering the old numbers.
“I can still recall the sensation of absolute relief that I once felt knowing you were keeping my A-Li safe when I couldn’t. This is my payment for that moment of peace you gave me. Now I know it was a lie but at the time it made me feel better.” Softly, so faintly she spoke.
“The Sutra of Filial Piety or the Sutra on the Profundity of Filial Love, Sutra on Parental Benevolence.” Bai Qian explained and her voice had the strangest calm but it also triggered her. “Shimu of Kunlun Mountain, I wish you would take your Sutra and choke on it then drop dead!” Dongmei accented her verbal hatred with a succession of vile profanities, but again no response.
Without a hint, not even an ounce of anger, Bai Qian responded, “Dongmei, I’d like you to carefully consider your son’s future and allow me to adopt Prince Yingpei. He will not suffer for your mistakes. I’ll shower him with love, raise him as my own with his siblings and swear to protect him with my life…”
The mention of Yingpei’s name made her gasp, and broke through the dam of her well-contained emotions, “Tell me one thing.” Dongmei’s voice trembled as she held back her tears, “The day we met; you gave me all your old gowns and matching shoes. Did you do it because I was a poor half-mortal orphan born in a brothel, and you felt sorry for me? Was it a charity?”
Sincere emotions colored her face rosy, and never had she looked as beautiful as she did to Dongmei at that moment. Bai Qian dropped to her knees and shook her head in contradiction, “The dresses weren’t old. The shoes and gowns were all brand new. I got them on my birthday the week before we met.” She paused and swallowed hard; her voice cracked with sentiment, “And I never pitied you.”
“You see, I always wanted a sister since my brothers are…well, they’re brothers.” She sighed and whispered wistfully, “Dongmei, I gave you the dresses because I wanted you to like me and stay with me like a real sister. That was why my mother brought you to our home…”
“From day one, we considered you as a part of our family, and after you helped me escape from Mo Yuan, Mother hoped to marry you with Bai Zhen. That’s the truth. Fourth Brother had affections for you but he was too bashful. You broke his heart too.”
Bai Qian stood to go but first spoke to Dongmei with sincere regard, “Think about my request carefully and if you need anything, mention it to one of the guards. I had the Celestial guards replaced with royal deputies from Qing Qiu. The ones that serve my father so they will watch over and care for you well.”
“Goodbye, Dongmei. If we ever meet again, perhaps in our next lives, we can be sisters.” Bai Qian said and it was painful to see such sincerity in her eyes, before she walked out of Dongmei’s life.
Life was forever full of surprises…
Dongmei resigned all her rights, and claims to her son then petitioned Qian Qian to become his legal guardian. With the marshals from Qing Qiu as her witnesses, she denounced herself as Prince Yingpei’s birth mother, and plead guilty to all her charges.
As a sign of her great remorse, later beseeched for all 400 doses of the tonic at once and took her life by overdose. If Dongmei’s actions weren’t shocking enough, Qian Qian stunned him further by requesting to legally adopt Yingpei. It was nothing he could verbalize with anyone, but after seeing how she handled both Dongmei and Yingpei with such a tender, and compassionate heart when he, himself, didn’t know what to do…
Ye Hua fell in love with his Qian Qian all over again.
Life was forever full of surprises.
But for him, the rainbow at the end of the storm, his unexpected moment of sweet charity was when Ye Hua heard his second son not only slept with his older sister in his new Empress mother’s bed every night, but had also picked up Changchang’s nighttime habits. It was established; everyone was touching and enjoying Qian Qian’s breasts at night except himself.
To be continued…..