Jingrui, Mei Changsu’s friend, found himself a deeply troubled man.
His mother, the emperor’s sister, was pursued by a masked assassin, and they suspected it had something to do with a letter left to her by Marquis Xie, who recently died in a work-related accident in a labour camp.
It was an open secret about a verbal agreement reached between the husband and the wife that the content in the letter should not be revealed when the man was still alive.
Now the Marquis was dead, and clearly, somebody was trying to prevent the content from being known by the public.
What was in the letter then?
The mother and the son opened a silk bag and unfolded the paper, which made their blood run cold.
It narrated in details how Marquis Xie and Xia Jiang, the former chief of Royal Discipline Committee, framed Marshal Lin Xie and the original crown prince, and massacred 70,000 strong Red Flame Army on the Plum Hill based on false accusations.
Since the nature of the content was so grave and critical, Jingrui urged his mother to hand over the letter to the emperor.
But the emperor’s sister rejected the idea outright. “You think they could destroy a marshal, a crown prince and 70,000 troops by themselves? They only did what the emperor wished them to do. He just wanted to quash any potential threat to his power.”
Eventually, they decided to hand over the letter to Crown Prince Jing. Yet Mei Changsu and Prince Jing urged her to publically submitted it to the throne on the emperor’s birthday party.
The emperor’s birthday finally came and His mighty Majesty was in a very good mood.
When Crown Prince Jing and his wife arrived before the banquet, he invited his son to play chess with him.
It was a long intellectual battle. Before the game could conclude, however, the time for the birthday party was announced, so the emperor suggested continuing the metal combat afterwards.
He didn’t realise he would lose the game before the party ended.
An ancient Chinese royal birthday banquet
The emperor’s birthday party formally began, attended by major royal family members and high officials, as well as Mei Changsu, as Crown Prince Jing’s political consultant.
The emperor enjoyed the gathering and took pleasure in viewing the palace maidens’ dancing performance.
Yet his happiness was short lived.
The emperor soon came to the moment of truth. Jingrui’s mother, Marquis Xie’s wife and the emperor’s sister, read aloud her late husband’s confession letter and urged the throne to reopen the Red Flame Army case for investigation.
Ancient Chinese palace guards, masked and unmasked
The emperor was in a rage and in panic, because his own misconduct was implicated in the letter, and because he regarded the plea to reopen the case as a direct challenge to his authority.
He called his masked guards to silence the whistleblower.
But the time had changed and a new palace guardian force with allegiance to his successor grew.
His masked guards were rendered immobile by Prince Jing’s unmarked guards.
The worst thing was the emperor found nearly all his high officials and royal family members literally came to stand by the whistleblower.
Except for one man. It was Mei Changsu, who was still sitting on his seat.
The emperor noticed him. And all the sudden he became certain who this man really was.
“Xia Jiang is right on one thing — you’ve come back!” In towering wrath, he drew a sword and lurched his way toward Mei Changsu.
Crown Prince Jing swiftly positioned himself between his best friend and his father’s sword.
The emperor ordered his son to step aside, but the prince told his father he would have to walk over his dead body to hurt Mei Changsu.
Realising he was opposed by nearly everybody in the hall, the emperor let his sword slip down on the floor.
Forlornly, he stumbled his way to his casual sitting hall, from where he requested to talk to Mei Changsu, alone.
“Tell me, what do you really want of me?” the emperor demanded.
“I want justice for 70,000 Red Flame Army officers,” Mei Changsu responded.
The emperor thought about that. “All right. I can agree to reinvestigate the case and restore the honour of those wrongly accused, but there is a condition: you will have to disappear from the capital.”
“Not a problem. Once the justice is restored, my job is done, you will never see me again”
The reply took the emperor by surprise. “Are you sure? What is the purpose for your 13 years of hard endeavour then?”
Mei Changsu sneered at the emperor in contempt. “You think everyone is obsessed with power like you?” He turned and walked out of the hall.
A traditional Chinese mansion with a screen wall at the entrance
The day of justice arrived. The first crown prince Qi, Marshal Lin Xie, young marshal Lin Shu and 70,000 Red Flame Army officers and soldiers and their families were all declared to be not guilty by a formal royal decree.
Lin family’s deserted mansion was restored by Crown Prince Jing. Yet it was no longer a garden residence for the living but the dead, since the entire family members were gone, except Lin Shu.
Now accompanied by his fiancee Princess Nihuang and loyal friend Meng Zhi, the royal guard commander, Mei Changsu walked into his home to pay tribute to his late parents and his late generals and …. himself — Lin Shu was among the dead on the official record.
After 14 years, Mei Changsu eventually reunited with his parents, his generals and ….. his former self.
Mei Changsu planned to leave the capital forever in a few days.
He knew he wouldn’t be able to live long. He didn’t want his deeply loved girl to become a widow and didn’t want his childhood friend to watch him die. He’d prefer to quietly disappear from their sight and fade away from their memory so the loss of him, for the second time, might not be so unbearably painful.
But something happened.
The wars. And wars ignited in the kingdom’s south, the west and the north.
He advised Princess Nihuang to back to Yunnan as she was the only person to keep the southern border in control;
He suggested General Nie Feng and his wife go to the west. Although the former Fire Frozen Toxin sufferer couldn’t speak as a sequela of the semi-detoxicate treatment, Lady Xia was now able to understand him pretty well;
However, he couldn’t find any suitable general to recommend to Crown Prince Jing to expel the invaders from the north. Neither any general was daring or willing to face those formidable nomads.
So he decided to return to the Plum Hill himself, once again.
Crown Prince Jing objected the suggestion. He’d rather go to the northern frontier himself.
“If you do so,” Mei Changsu warned, “His Majesty and the interest groups may regain the control and all the progress could be undone.”
The prince knew the risk. “But you are so ill, how can I send you to the frontier?”
Mei Changsu ensured the prince he was just a bit frail, otherwise, nothing wrong with his health.
The prince was left with little choice, so he made a concession. “Well, if your doctor can assure me you’re really ok, I may consider.”
Lin Chen, the CEO of Langya Info Centre and Fire Frozen Toxin expert, refused to give such a testimony.
“Are you crazy, mate?!” Lin Chen censured him. “All I can assure His Highness is you will collapse in three days if you go back to Plum Hill.”
“How about that drug?” Mei Changsu prompted. “I saw you produced a bottle of the special drug from rare plants.”
“Who told you I made that drug for you?”
“Why not? I know with that drug I can live like a normal man for three months.”
“Correct, but do you know why it can restore health temporarily for a gravely ill person? It summons all the remaining energy in the body for the final burst.”
“That’s fine. After three months all the border wars will be concluded, and Crown Prince Jing shall have completed his reform –”
“How about you then? Hie?” Lin Chen cut him short. “After three months no one in the entire universe can ever be able to save you. You’ll be dead. Do you understand?!”
“So what!” Mei Changsu cried out. “I was Young Marshal Lin Shu, and will always be, I have to help my country when it is in crises.”
Lin Chen was silent for a while. Shaking his head, he handed the drug bottle to Mei Changsu. “Whatever, this is your life.” He quickly walked towards the front door.
“Where are you going?”
“To enlist in the army — hope you will hire me as your bodyguard.” He turned to give Mei Changsu a sour smile. “You agreed to tour the world with me in a few days and do your best to prolong your lifespan; I promised I will accompany you until your last day. Now you’ve broken your promise to me, but I still want to keep my promise to you.”
As Crown Prince Jing stood on the city wall watching Mei Changsu and his army to leave the capital, he began counting the days for his best friend’s safe return.
It was time for Mei Changsu and Princess Nihuang to bid each other farewell. They both had their duties to fulfil in different battlefields.
But it was just too hard for the princess to say goodbye to the man and the only man she loved. When she saw him off to Plum Hill last time, it took 12 years for them to reunite. How long it would take this time?
“Let’s both be born in an ordinary family next life, and we shall be able to live together peacefully,” suggested Mei Changsu.
Princess Nihuang made a smile. “I hope in your next life you will remember what you’ve promised today.”
“I vow, in my next life I will fulfil my promise I’ve made to you this life!”
Princess Nihuang broke into a big smile. He was her faith — she believed whatever he said whatever he did because he never disappointed her.
Despite his fiancee and his childhood friend were thousands of miles away, Mei Changsu was not alone in the Plum Hill.
He was accompanied by CEO of Langya Info Centre Lin Chen, Royal Guard Commander Meng Zhi, Marquis Yan’s son Yujin, late Marquis Xie’s son Jingrui and his adult and teenager bodyguards.
They all knew he was Lin Shu, and he lived and fought as his real self without a need to conceal his true identity.
His soul was set free …..
An ancient Chinese battle command headquarters in a bamboo hut
The progress of the wars was just like what Mei Changsu envisaged — all border defence campaigns were concluded successfully in less than three months and all invading forces were rolled back, including the most formidable Dayu troops along the northern border.
Peace once again restored.
Royal Guard Commander Meng Zhi, the sons of Marquis Yan and late Marquis Xie, Langya info centre CEO and Mei Changsu’s doctor Lin Chen, Mei Changsu’s adult and teenage bodyguards were all returned from the freezy cold northern frontier.
Except for Mei Changsu.
He left behind in Plum Hill, forever, with his father and 70,000 warriors from Red Flame Army, who were buried in the snow covered mountain since 14 years ago.
14 years later, Mei Changsu had exhausted all his remaining life energies and died in the land where he was once reborn.
Princess Nihuang also remained in the semi-tropical southern border. After receiving the news of Mei Changsu’s death, what else could make her return to the capital where there were so many memories about her lover?
Crown Prince Jing eventually became the new emperor.
However, the day of his childhood friend’s return never came. His heart was filled with deep pain, but he understood Mei Changsu did not spend 14 years of hard endeavour and made a final sacrifice for him to lose himself in grief. He wanted him to restore the nation to former glory.
So he restructured the government and reformed the military force. When the tasks were accomplished, he renamed the kingdom’s defence force as “Chang Lin Army”, meaning the Army of Mei Changsu and Lin Shu.
It was his way to invite Mei Changsu’s spirit to stay with him and with the nation, forever …..