Nirvana in Fire (7): A Hunting Excursion
While Mei Changsu was forced fed with a poisonous drug by Xia Jiang at Royal Discipline Committee, Lady Xia, Xia Jiang’s disciple, was summoned by the emperor.
Duke Ji, the emperor’s brother, reported to the throne he saw Lady Xia instructing several kung fu men to take fugitive Wei Zheng onto a horse-drawn carriage.
“Now I’ve realised who is really behind the prison break!” The emperor was enraged and ordered to arrest Xia Jiang.
Traditional Chinese way of marking a confiscated property — sealing the front gate with two paper strips
Royal Discipline Committee, the kingdom’s most powerful and fearsome organization, was disciplined. In fact, it existed no more — the front gate of the compound was permanently sealed and all staff members were under arrest.
Mei Changsu could hardly walk out of his underground cell by himself. When he was supported by his bodyguard shuffling his feet past Xia Jiang, the former power broker in shackles shouted at him in a provocative tone, “Seven days, remember, you only have seven days!”
“What seven days?” Royal Guard Commander Meng Zhi became alarmed.
Xia Jiang grinned at the commander, “Please forward a question to Prince Jing for me: He’s saved Wei Zheng but lost Mei Changsu, how he is going to evaluate his victory?”
The commander seized Xia Jiang’s neck. “What do you mean by seven days?!”
Mei Changsu darted him a look. “How can you take Xia Jiang’s words seriously,” with that he staggered towards his carriage.
The treatment methods in traditional Chinese medicine include drugs made with herbs, animal parts or other natural substance, acupuncture, massage, cupping, qigong and food therapy.
Once arrived home, a fatally intoxicated Mei Changsu began to spit up blood and eventually sank into a deep coma.
As he was unable to take medicine, his doctor had to rely on acupuncture to do the job and his body was full of needles.
Finally it came to the moment of truth. The doctor broke the skin of his finger with a needle to release a few drops of blood into a bowl filled with special liquid.
The blood in the liquid quickly faded in colour and eventually disappeared without trace.
The doctor could hardly contain his rapture. “We don’t need to worry about the Black Golden Pill anymore!” he announced.
“Really? How come?” the bodyguards couldn’t believe their ears.
“It has to thank the Fire Freezing Toxin in his body, which is the most poisonous stuff in the world and can neutralize any other poison.”
Meals on wheels in ancient Chinese prison
Lady Qin, the boss of Red Sleeve Seduction, disguised as a meal delivery woman and had a chance to meet Xia Jiang in jail.
When Xia Jiang learned she was handed a bag of tips by her master, former Princess Quanjin of Hua Kingdom and his love of life, he urged Lady Qin to open the bag.
To the great surprise of both of them, the words in the bag was not addressed to Lady Qin but Prince Yu.
It was a letter a dying mother wrote to her baby son.
Only by then they realised Prince Yu’s biological mother was Princess Quanji’s sister, Princess Linglong.
From Lady Qin, Xia Jiang also learned that Mei Changsu did not die of poison. Later they found out from Mei Changsu’s former veggie delivery guy, the man was once suffered Fire Freezing Toxin.
Xia Jiang, a poison expert, immediately made a connection between the two.
Two ancient Chinese officials had a drink in a cosy home office at night
Back in the cabanit, the investigation into the firecracker mill explosion one year ago by newly appointed Law Minister gathered convincing evidences that the explosion was not an accident but the result of a deliberate sabotage, and the mastermind behind the incident was Prince Yu’s brother-in-law.
It was clear to the law minister and to the emperor, the objective of engineering such horrendous incident was to expose the crown prince’s misconduct in a dramatic way and impel the crown to strip his successor’s title.
The objective had been fully achieved but at a cost of over a hundred innocent lives.
But to save the royal face, the emperor turned down Law Minister’s request to investigate further. As a punishment, he just lowered Prince Yu’s status from Duky of Seven Beads to Duke of Double Beads.
Law Minister was very upset, so Cultural Minister invited him to have a drink at his home office. “His Majesty has his concern, such as the reputation of the monarch and stability of the social order,” Cultural Minister tried to appease the Law Minister.
“The key issue is not here. From beginning to the end, all His Majesty cared about is whether Prince Yu treated on him; he did not even mention once the 160 lives lost in the fire. And look at Prince Yu, he exhibited not a slightest remorse for what he did to his victims. Apart from the power, what else they really care about? I’m totally disillusioned with the kingdom’s doomed reality.”
“You’re wrong,” the Cultural Minister said. “Precisely because the kingdom’s political situation is so dark, we must not be discouraged. It needs us to fight and to make a change. Besides, we still have Prince Jing.”
Prince Jing couldn’t wait to hear General Wei Zheng to tell him in person what happened at Plum Hill 13 years ago where 70,000 Red Flame Armies were perished. So as soon as Mei Changsu slightly recovered, he organised a secret meeting at his residence attened by General Wei Zheng, Prince Jing, Royal Guard Meng Zhi and General Lie.
It was only by then Prince Jing and Royal Guards Commander Meng Zhi learned what heroic resistance battles Lin Shu, his father and their army fought in order to defend the kingdom from Dayu invasion, which had bought 13 years of peace to the land, and how the exhausted remaining warriors who survived the war fell under the butchers of Xia Jiang and Marquis Xie with the emperor’s order.
“But — if you survived the carnage, surely others should also have a chance to escape the fate?” Prince Jing stared at Wei Zheng, earnestly. “I just can’t believe Lin Shu would cease to exist like that — he shouldn’t be — he couldn’t be!”
“I was sent by Young Marshal to meet the reinforcement troops, so I wasn’t in the Plum Hill when the massacre took place.”
Prince Jing could not restrain his tears, weeping bitterly. “Does it mean Little Shu had no chance to survive?” He sobbed, calling Lin Shu by his nickname while shaking his head in desperate denial as his last hope faded. “I know, he will never come back again –” He collapsed emotionally and vented his grief and anger by kicking down a lamp table.
He didn’t realise Lin Shu was just sitting a few meters away.
It was a metal torture for Mei Changsu to re-experience what he suffered psychologically and physically at Plum Hill that night. It was also an emotional torment for him to keep a stony face when listening to Wei Zheng’s narration as if all these had nothing to do with him.
An ancient Chinese royal procession outside the city wall
Spring season arrived again and the emperor left the capital for an annual hunting excursion.
The interiors of the ancient Chinese elite’s carriage (above) and commoner’s carriage (below)
Prince Jing’s mother was invited by the emperor to take part in the excretion this time.
Also invited was Mei Changsu. The monarch didn’t know the man had already been Prince Jing’s consultant and hoped he could be the one.
Taking a free ride with Mei Changsu was Prince Jing’s adopted son. The boy was actually the child of the condemned Prince Qi, saved by Mei Changsu with a trick when the kid was working as a slave in the palace.
A typical royal camping ground in the ancient China. The woks with firewoods underneath were serving as lamppost at night.
The emperor’s annual hunting exertion group and their three thousands guards quickly set up camps on a broad grassfield at the foot of Nine Peace Hill.
Ancient Chinese Olympics: royal archery championship. There were no judges or referees but a pair of drums to announce the scores
Time for sports. The emperor was the first athlete to show off his archery skills, but he didn’t score well.
Ancient Chinese picnic in royal style
After the physical exercise, the emperor sitting on a carpet under an umbrella enjoyed picnic with Marquis Yan (Mei Changsu’s secret ally) and Duke Ji, his younger brother.
Ancient Chinese barbecue in royal style
While the emperor had a picnic within a space semi-enclosed, young princes preferred barbecue in an open field.
Ancient Chinese camping tent with windows
It was the first time since returning to the capital, Mei Changsu had a chance to relax.
As the crown prince had been deprived of his royal title and banished to a remote region, and Prince Yu was demoted to a position much lower than Prince Jing, no one could stop Prince Jing from becoming the new crown prince.
In his warmly heated tent, Mei Changsu leisurely read books while minding Prince Qi’s boy practicing calligraphy.
But soon he was interrupted. He was invited to meet Prince Jing’s mother.
From the moment Mei Changsu entered the tent, the royal lady’s sight remained faxed on the young man’s face.
The woman knew whom he was; she knew it before from his comments on the Travel Notebook, and she knew it now from his eyes, even though his appearance changed completely. And she also knew his son didn’t know.
Mei Changsu knew she knew whom he was.
This was his father’s adopted sister who watched him born and grew for 17 years until he went to the northern board to defend the kingdom 13 years ago.
The lady offered Mei Changsu rather specific health care advances as if she knew all his life aspects, which raised Prince Jing’s suspicion.
Trained and worked as a Chinese medicine doctor before she was saved by Marshal Lin Xie, the royal lady was a highly accomplished physician. Now she proposed to conduct medical diagnosis for Mei Changsu.
When she pressed Mei Changsu’s wrist to feel the pulse, tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Have you paid norming respect to your father,” she asked her son without turning her tearful face to him.
“I’ve already done so, mother.”
“How about afternoon respect?”
“He’s taking a snooze now.”
“So what?!” the woman became agitated. “You still must go to see him, just wait outside his tent until he wakes up!”
Prince Jing grinned wryly at his mother’s back. “I know you just don’t want me to stay here. Ok, I leave.” And he walked out of the tent.
“I’m fine, auntie,” Mei Changsu smiled at the royal lady.
“No, you are not,” the lady became desperate. “Fire Freezing Toxin is the most lethal poison in the world, there is no way it can be completely got rid of from your body system. Listen to me, Little Shu,” she holding Mei Changsu’s hand urged him intently, “leave all this business to me, I’ll find a way to restore justice, you just concentrate on getting your health back.”
“That won’t do, auntie,” Mei Changsu rejected outright. “I’ve beeing worked hard on this for 13 years just for this day to come.”
“But, like this, you may not be able to live much longer –” once again the woman failed to hold back her tears.
There were something shining in Mei Changsu’s eyes. “Auntie, if I can’t bring justice to wrongly accused 70,000 warriors and their families, what would be the point for me to keep living my life?”
The woman couldn’t find a word to reply. She knew him too well.
“Auntie, please don’t reveal my true identity and illness to Jingyan, please help me keep this secret from him.”
“But — why?” the woman cried again, shaking her head.
“Please, auntie! If he knows it, whatever the action he takes, he will consider my welfare first, and will not be able to focus on the task solely. We are just this much away from reaching our goal, and we are dancing on the knife edge, he can’t be distracted by anything else.”