They say we come into the world alone and depart in the same lonely way. Whoever thought this concept to be true never had an identical twin.
I must be truly blessed because I’ve never been alone. Even inside our mother’s uterus, my brother has been by my side and less than two minutes separated my younger twin Ye Hua and my birth. He and I are Qing’s royal third and fourth princes. We are not the Emperor’s firstborn sons, yet in the sense of legitimacy to the golden dragon seat throne, we brothers, children with his main and legal wife, Empress Lanhua, born under the Han blue banner, are the rightful successors.
Nobody expected her to have any children. The imperial doctors had foreseen, warning her and our Emperor father of her rare blood condition and advised not to conceive or try to have any babies. Father loved her dearly. His regard and unconditional devotion to her outweighed his desire for any lawful children with her. The harem, his consorts, concubines, and ladies would serve their intended purpose and carry out the tasks of extending his royal bloodline.
Suffice was their fairytale-like love, and he was content, but not she. Our Empress mother defied father’s preventative measures, secretly stopped drinking the contraceptive tonic, and conceived us knowing it would kill her. Our mother’s self-sacrifice’s gravity has constantly been suffocating, a source of unexplainable guilt and blame, yet it’s been tolerable because my twin and I shared the weight.
Father named me the Crown Prince at birth. My responsibilities are endless, and my days full of obligations, but Ye Hua and I often switch clothing. I become him, and he changes into me—my other half who voluntarily shares my burdens without ever receiving proper credit or merits for his achievements. We pretend to be one another. I wear his black travel garment, leaving the forbidden city to fish or see our people’s state, and he dressed in my regal clothes to debate national concerns with the ministers.
Head to toe. We’re identical in every way. Nobody could tell us apart that was except Bai Qian, and now she’s killing herself with a smile on her face. “Wait, I’m going with you!” She screams, running. Her rushed words echo as she throws her petite body onto the verticle blade. The point sinks through her abdomen and reappears in her lower back.
A radiant beam lights up her face before like a wave, a surge of blood gushes, overfills, and blows from her upturned lips. I know why she’s smiling. An honorable death had been her wish. This unmeasurable grief, staring into her shimmering eyes, I wonder if our mother felt this way when she passed. Was she as eagerly keen to die for love?
Five Years Before
“Crown Prince and fourth Prince, Minister Bai has finished with the Emperor and is currently on route crossing the great hall to greet you.” My principal assistant, Eunuch Bo, states as he quietly removes the breakfast plates before us.
Ye Hua waits until we’re alone and says, “That man is like clockwork. Not a single day has he missed since Father became ill. He tests father’s medicines and foods personally for poison, then reads and re-reads father’s favorite books out loud even when father is having one of his spells.”
My mother’s death not only brought an end to a great love story, but our father, the Emperor, has never been the same. He began losing track of time. Displaying signs of senility, delusion and thought she was still alive. He frightened those around him witless. They ran and cowered when he conversed for long periods with the empty spot beside him as if she were standing there.
The other consorts, concubines, serving ladies, and servants believed it was the Empress’s ghost. He wasn’t always confused and had moments of clarity, and during one of those times, when he was lucid, our Emperor father once told my younger brother and me that we were one river.
My twin and I may swerve into different paths throughout life due to unforeseen factors out of our control, but we would be eventually become one again in the end. Because before dividing and developing into two heartbeats, one fertilized egg was our source, and we must never forget our oneness was Heaven’s favor and design.
He also said like brooks and streams. In times of peace and serenity, we must be gently flowing cascades; however, during periods of storms and turbulence, united we tranquil waterways must transform into ruthless, unstoppable raging rapids that nobody could control or contain. His divine meaning was uncomplicated, divided. Ye Hua and I would undergo suffering and pain, even possibly collapsing and losing the throne or something more significant, yet united; we were unbeatable.
Not even the God of War in Heaven could destroy us.
To be continued…