After returned to the capital, the emperor installed Prince Jing as the new Crown Prince.
In the meanwhile, Layang Info Centre’s CEO Lin Chen also arrived in the capital after received Mei Changsu’s express mail delivered by pigeon.
Lin Chen and his father were the only two people under heaven who could deal with Fire Frozen Toxin.
He presented two options for General Nie Feng and his wife, former royal investigator Xia Dong, to choose from.
One was semi-detoxification, which would allow the patient to fully recover his health, but the downside was not being able to speak and to remove long hair from his face and body.
Another was thorough detoxification, which meant the patient’s internal organs, bones, muscles and skin would be totally broken into pieces to allow the poisonous substance to be washed away. After lying on a bed for a year to let the body parts regrow, the patient would look and sound completely different and all his internal strength would disappear. And he would not be able to live long.
It was only by then Princess Nihuang and Royal Guard Commander Meng Zhi realised what a hellish ordeal Mei Changsu had experienced, how ill he had become and how soon they would lose him, again, and forever.
Royal Guard Commander Meng Zhi was very upset with Mei Changsu. “Why do you come to the capital to exhaust yourself in all these political nightmares?!”
“What do you think? Why did I endure all these ordeals to look like a normal man and to get back my ability to speak again?” Mei Changsu asked back. “I’ve worked hard for 13 years just for one thing, for justice to be served, which is the only purpose and meaning of my life now since I’m no longer just a man, but a symbol representing 70,000 massacred and wrongly convicted souls and their families.”
The commander found himself being unable to reject Mei Changsu’s reasoning, as deep down he knew he was right.
After the commander left, Mei Changsu approached his fiancee, Princess Nihuang, who for all this time just silently bent her head.
“Nihuang, I –”
“You don’t need to say anything, my dear,” Princess Nihuang raised her head and looked into his eyes. “Just tell me, please, how much time you’ve left?”
Mei Changsu understood his remaining life was calculated by months, if not by days. But he couldn’t bear to see her in agony.
“… Ten years …” he lied.
She made an effort to give him a smile. “That’s enough of time,” she said and went to cuddle him, tightly.
Behind his neck, her hand clenched into a fist — that was her way to suppress her urge to cry.
China’s organic Google Search Engine in ancient time
Prince Jing and Mei Changsu’s arch-enemy Xia Jiang, the former chief of Royal Discipline Committee, escaped from the prison during Prince Yu’s military coup.
Although the coup was defeated and Prince Yu died, Xia Jiang still believed he had the last chance to destroy both Prince Jing and Mei Changsu, and to avenge his love of life, the separatist Princess Xuanji from ethnic Huazu.
As he learned from the veggie delivery guy through Lady Qin that Mei Changsu suffered from Fire Frozen Toxin, which was why his Black Gold Pill didn’t kill him, he figured out the man must be in the Plum Valley that night 13 years ago. He hence sent a letter to the emperor claiming Mei Changsu was no other, but Lin Shu, the young marshall of the convicted Red Flame Army.
The emperor didn’t want to take a chance and ordered an organic version of “Google search”. Hundreds of students from the state-run university were called to the meeting hall to browse through ancient documents to find references to the mythical Fire Frozen Toxin and its eerie treatment.
After three days and three nights of hard search through paper and bamboo books, a reference was discovered.
The emperor immediately ordered to send for Mei Changsu.
When Mei Changsu walked into the emperor’s sitting hall, he found himself surrounded by fully-armed masked royal guards. The emperor was going to put him to death on the spot immediately after his true identity was confirmed.
Both Crown Prince Jing and Xia Jiang were called to the hall as witnesses before the throne in the trial.
“Xia Jiang said he is Lin Shu, do you know that?” the emperor questioned Prince Jing.
Prince Jing couldn’t believe his ears, staring at Mei Changsu for quite a few minutes.
Mei Changsu didn’t give him a look, just watching the emperor with a smile.
“I’m asking you, did you know he is Lin Shu?” the emperor pursued harshly.
“Father, you watched Lin Shu grow, you must know what he looked like.”
“Have you ever heard of Fire Frozen Toxin? One could only contract this disease after being burned by fire and bitten by Plum Hill’s special snow insects.”
Plum Hill? So Mei Changsu was from Red Flame Army? Prince Jing again measured his consultant with his eye.
“After having recovered from the disease, a Fire Frozen Toxin patient would look like a completely different person,” the emperor continued to explain and to observe Prince Jing’s reaction.
Prince Jing’s mouth and eyes opened wide. So this man really could be Lin Shu, his best friend whom he mourned and missed for 13 years? If it indeed was the case, then he came back to him for over a year, yet he didn’t know who he was!
How could it happen! How?!
Then suddenly Prince Jing realised why he should not know Mei Changsu’s true identity and became fully mindful that his reaction was closely watched by his father.
“That’s Xia Jiang’s bullshit accusation, father,” Prince Jing regained his sense. “He’s a man on death roll, he would make any outlandish story if that can save his own life. Where is his evidence to prove his claim?”
“You want evidence? I give you evidence,” Xia Jiang replied. “A Fire Frozen Toxin sufferer has abnormal pulse pressure, which will result in a clash between cold and hot qis and inconsistency between symptoms and diagnosis. Mei Changsu,” he turned to the man and challenged, “dare you to let doctors examine your plus?”
There was a silence in the hall. Everybody was scrutinizing Mei Changsu’s expression.
Then they heard the man cackled. “All right, I admit I am Lin Shu.”
Prince Jing’s eyes bulged out.
“I say so because I want to save Your Majesty’s trouble to send doctors here feeling my pulse,” Mei Changsu grinned at ease. “Whatever the result might be, the result will be meaningless.”
“Why it will be meaningless?” the emperor became curious.
“Think about it, Your Majesty. If they find my pulse is abnormal, can you be sure I must be Lin Shu? And if they find my pulse is normal, can you guarantee I am not Lin Shu?”
Now the emperor became a bit confused. Judging by Prince Jing’s initial reaction, Mei Changsu couldn’t really be Lin Shu.
“Your Majesty, Xia Jiang knows he is on the death roll, and now he makes such shocking claim without evidence, it’s obvious to me, he just wants to take revenge against you by sewing a seed of distrust between you and your successor.”
“You bastard!” The Emperor picked up a bronze object from his desk and threw it at Xia Jiang. “Take him back to jail,” he ordered.
“You! All because of you!!!” Xia Jiang, the powerful kung fu man, pounced at Mei Changsu.
Despite being a man without inner physical strength to mount an attack, Mei Changsu was still capable of dodging assault in a style that only a man with military and kung fu training could achieve.
The emperor took no notice, but it didn’t slip Prince Jing’s attention.
Xia Jiang was overpowered. When he was taken away by the guards, he shouted at the top of his lung, “Your Majesty — listen to me — don’t take a chance — rather to kill a wrong man than to free a wanted man!”
The emperor’s face changed.
An ancient Chinese water clock
Chinese traditionally divide a day in 12 hours, corresponding to 12 Chinese zodiacs.
In the midnight (11pm – 1am), it is a rat time, followed by ox time (1am – 3am), tiger time (3am – 5am best for meditation), rabbit time (5am – 7am best for exercise), dragon time (7am – 9am, best for study), snake time (9am – 11am, best time for work), horse time (11am – 1pm, best for lunch), and then goat time, monkey time, rooster time, dog time and pig time.
While Mei Changsu and Prince Jing were trapped in the palace, Princess Nihuang and Royal Guard Commander Meng Zhi were preparing for an armed mutiny in order to save both men.
According to a pre-arrangement between Prince Jing and Princess Nihuang, if Mei Changsu and the prince failed to show up at the palace gate at the due noon, her army should storm the palace.
Thus everyone was in full military gear, standing watching a water clock.
The emperor instructed his eunuch servant to bring two cups of wine.
“You should go to see your mother now,” he then told Prince Jing.
“I’ll walk Mr Mei Changsu out of the palace first.”
The emperor bellowed. “That’s none of your business!”
The prince looked at his father in suspicion and determined to station himself in the hall.
A timber tray with two cups of wine was delivered to the hall. “This is yours, Your Majesty — and this one — it is for — Mr Mei Changsu,” the eunuch said hesitantly, and looked at Mei Changsu with sorrow.
“You was wrongly accused by that scoundrel,” the emperor approached Mei Changsu and picked up his wine cup. “Please take your drink, I hope it can convey my consolation to you.”
“What do you mean by this, father?” Prince Jing questioned the emperor.
The emperor scowled at his son, trying hard not to explode again.
“I know what His Majesty means,” Mei Changsu walked towards the tray. “He doesn’t want to take a chance so wants me to die in the hall right now.”
“Is this what you mean?” Prince Jing pressed his father.
The emperor pulled his face. “Yes! Mr Mei Changsu, please, take your wine,” he urged.
Mei Changsu stretched out his hand towards the cup filled with poisonous wine.
Prince Jing snatched the wine cup from Mei Changsu’s hand.
From the moment he knew Mei Changsu was Lin Shu, there was no way he would allow anyone to hurt him — He was willing to take the risk of losing everything, including his own life, to protect his friend.
He lifted the cup towards his own mouth.
The emperor was alarmed. “What are you doing? Are you out of your mind?!”
Slowly, Prince Jing tipped the cup and let the wine drip onto the floor.
When Mei Changsu and Prince Jing eventually walked out of the sitting hall, the water clock was just about to stop dripping water.
The military mutiny was called off at the last minute.
Mei Changsu fell into a deep coma for days once returned home. Despite he eventually recovered, his health further deteriorated and his days were numbered.
His good friend Lin Cheng, the CEO of Langya info centre, spent most of his time experimenting with new drugs from the natural ingredients, hoping to extend Mei Changsu’s life.
Mei Changsu’s loyal teenager bodyguard became Lin Cheng’s handy assistant.
It was the best time for the kingdom, as two friends, Crown Prince Jing and Mei Changsu, worked together and reformed the nation’s corruption-ridden political and military systems.
Now they considered it should be the right time to reopen the case for the Red Flame Army.