The meaning of life? In my humble opinion, it is the most often asked and utterly moronic question in the world. Many seek, but only fools search for something that doesn’t exist.
I use the term fools like clowns because my older twin sibling and I find life absurd, comical, and nonsensical. Here we are all fumbling and blundering about, trying to find purpose in our lives when in reality, there isn’t any meaning to be found. Or this was my sentiment until Bai Qian, and then I understood my brother and I, our profound importance on this planet was to meet her.
She came into our lives much too late and leaving too soon. We’re only twenty years old and have not yet truly savored the sweetness of adult life. She gave us a sample of what we could have enjoyed for a lifetime, growing old with her until our black hair turned the color of snow and our young straight bodies crooked with age, but instead, she’s leaving, racing towards death. Neither Mo Yuan nor I can do anything to stop her.
“Wait, I’m going with you!” She screams, but the happiness in her voice stops everything and everyone in place. It’s hauntingly beautiful. It’s absolute chaos, but you could hear a pin drop when the blade runs its lethal course, penetrating through her tiny body, like a slice of meat on a skewer, and I feel it as if it’s happening to me.
How could she do this to me? To us? At this moment, like Mo Yuan, I love her as much as I resent her.
Five Years Before
“Ye Hua, wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.” He advises as if he were my elder by decades. My older by two minutes twin brother, Mo Yuan, quotes Confucius over breakfast when lecturing me about finding a wife or consort. “You need to stop flirting with the Minister’s wives.” Another quote from Confucius automatically comes from his lips, “He who fishes in other man’s well often catches crabs.” Before he asks, “What’s with you and your unusual attraction to older women?”
Confucius, Mencius, and Hsun Tzu, all great scholarly men; they were ahead of their time and geniuses. But why is it that I think they must have been boring men who overthought everything because their writings, which I knew by heart after glancing over them once, have the same effect as Valerian root tea, put me to sleep?
Dammit, now he’s quoting Buddha, and Mo Yuan has me yawning at breakfast. “Brother, If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.”
“Please let me eat in peace,” I mumble, shoving a spoonful of thick congee into my mouth as he places a slice of spicy lotus root atop the heap of porridge as if I were a child.
He and I have vastly different opinions on Buddha. Prince Siddhartha Gautam, a royal amongst royals. He was born into nobility who never saw suffering but, once he did, wasn’t able to live as he did before, leaving his palace and position to find the causes of suffering, hardships, the bitterness of life.
So they say…. but between you and me, I think he left because his life was much like mine. He probably had a pushy, overbearing Empress Dowager foster mother, a gaggle of nagging consort mothers bugging him to marry one of their clan females, countless bickering half-siblings fighting for the throne or favors, and an endless sea of people wanting to use him and his position. Buddha left his lofty, luxurious life for some peace and quiet in the woods.
It’s a secret also an inside joke, but I’m an atheist. According to my older twin Mo Yuan, I’m straight going to the demon realm, Hell, because I’m soulless heathen. Gods, Deities, mighty immortals, or an afterlife? Bull. I don’t believe in such nonsense. If I’m fully candid, I have very little faith or belief in anything, especially people. Yet if there’s one man I hold in the highest regard, it is Minister Bai Zhi.
‘Speak of the devil,’ I think when Mo Yuan’s assistance tells us while quietly withdrawing the breakfast setting. “Crown Prince and fourth Prince, Minister Bai has finished with the Emperor and is currently on route crossing the great hall to greet you.”
We both know why he’s here. It’s about his daughter Bai Qian’s escort home into the capital from Joseon. There’s a shroud of mystery surrounding this young girl. Unseen by anyone other than her family members. She spent her entire life in the southern peninsula at a Buddhist retreat without any explanations. Not that anyone would dare to inquire why since Minister Bai doesn’t do anything frivolous or irrelevant.
I’m sure he had his reasons.
To be continued…