BAI SHEN HONG
MILITARY GROUNDS CAMP
Bai Shen Hong footslogged himself back into the war room, still feeling nauseated though he had just relieved himself. Eunuch Nam kowtowed behind him in case he became of use to him since he had just rejected his offer to assist him in walking.
"Your majesty, would his grace like it if this servant had the palace maids prepare something to help calm your stomach?"
"That will not be necessary." Shen Hong motioned his hand so the eunuch would leave. He had started to feel better but due to him joining his military servicemen in their daily dawn practise, his stomach had become upset again.
It was unlike him to have issues of the health, so he silently wondered whether his heart was no longer in good condition; would this spark to a bigger problem?
Huizhong breathed out and slumped his back on the zabuton cushions that padded his huge seat. The throne like seat was fashioned behind his massive table which he had used earlier with some of his generals to plot and strategize military matters.
Due to the setting and dimness of the room, it took him a while to realise that two subjects of his were bowed by the entrance, awaiting admission. Huizhong smiled, glad about the acquintaship they both had towards each other.
"Present yourself before me," he grinned.
They both rose up and unitedly made their greetings.
"Your majesty, what a pleasant honor to be offered the chance to have your audience." The twins tardily finished their greetings. Standing next to the other, they were definite replicas of each other.
Shen Hong nodded. "What has caused Li Jie and Li Jun to follow me here?"
"Your majesty, we have witnessed something that may be of importance to you." Li Jie was always the one who was keen to speak up.
Huizhong wondered what it could be; he had left everything in order at the palace.
Li Jie continued, "Forgive your servants but it has been discovered that General Feng has a lover from among the palace maids."
"And from the uniform she put on, it is right to think that the palace maid belongs to the Grand Consort Shu's entourage." Li Jun added.
Shen Hong's eyebrows fleetingly raised, caught off guard by the news. General Feng was not one to get up to such nonsensical business. It didn't make sense that after having come through so much to be a renown general, he would give up everything for a unworthy maid, especially if the inner court were to find out.
"Can this be verified?" he asked skeptically.
"He held her against the tree intimately, right Li Jun?" Li Jie did not shilly-shally.
"Yeh… yeh… and they fought like romantically involved lovers."
Emperor Huizhong shook his head in disbelief, but again, the twins had been his eyes and ears as he required for years. He had to trust their words.
"Very well, is that all?" He shifted in his comfort padded chair as his stomach rang loudly. His hand gently rubbed his stomach to settle himself down.
Li Jie hesitated for a moment before responding, "Your majesty, forgive your servants but that woman is the one who also poisoned you."
"Ridiculous." The emperor rebuked, a fist now savagely pronouncing on his hand.
"Your Highness," Eunuch Nam rushed in and threw himself on the floor. "Your Highness!" He sobbed deeply.
"Eunuch Nam?" The emperor frowned.
"The Great Dragon has come, your majesty," Eunuch Nam spoke through his tears. "The Great Dragon has landed," he weeped.
"Xianhuang?"  Shen Hong stood up, lost for words.
"Li Jie, Li Jun… stay in and serve at the gate for a while," he looked down at the twins, still trying to wrap his mind around the situation. It was appropriate that they took a few days leave from the palace so not to rouse suspicion since they had already been caught in compromising positions a few times before.
"Good job," he lastly appreciated them. What they carried was vital information he would closely look into later on. Besides, where there was smoke, there was fire.
Outside, everyone solemnly knelt on their knees honouring the arrival of the previous emperor. In front of the war room exit was a table that had a small wooden chest on it, and two serving guards shielded the piece on their knees.
"Reporting to his majesty," Luo Meng stepped forward and gave his salutation, "mission has been accomplished." Huizhong knew that he could trust Luo Meng with his life but on that day his personal guard had exceeded his expectations. He had managed to take back his father's stolen heart from Huticah, which also proved that indeed they were the nation that killed his father.
"In such a short time you accomplished your mission Luo Meng, you have done well." He praised him although not so proud because of circumstance.
Huizhong dithered before stretching out for the chest.
"Your majesty, it's not wise to hold that please let these servants hold it for you," Eunuch Nam begged.
The emperor was lost in pain to hear him.
"Xianhuang…" he whispered, his heart aching so deeply. Huizhong felt like his feet would fail him at that moment. He could not stand in the presence of his father could he? The heart is what made the emperor after all.
"Ah... Xianhuang!" He tossed himself on his knees and howled sorrowfully, though tears did not kiss his cheeks. Shen Hong could not shed tears; accursed by his mother who would cover his mouth whenever he cried as a child to hide his existence in the palace. Since then he had grown up as one who could not shed tears when trying to cry.
He pounded his chest with his fist like the pain would go away that way.
"Xianhuang, you have pierced me where it hurts."
Delicately, he opened the chest with determination to see a part of his father for the last time. A gruesome smell of rotten blood and flesh polluted the air. He looked down at his father's heart that was now more of brown, slime dark green color. It was evident that the person who killed his father had savagely stabbed his father's heart a thousand times, as it was shredded into pieces.
Huizhong's hand quivered at this. He couldn't begin to imagine the pain his father must have felt in his sleep, with every stab, every piercing.
Undone, Shen Hong loudly wailed in immense agony.
Huticah had to suffer. Oh they had to drink the same bitter cup they served him, but that and more.
"Take my decree," he ordered, and feet alacritously shuffled around him, eager to do everything in excellence especially when he was in such a foul mood.
"Minister of Law, I want every person suspected for my father's death to die tonight. Let their blood be on my account," he acidicly commanded. "Each of them must have a thousand snares on their heart."
"But your majesty," the Minister of Law whimpered, "they are all not responsi―"
"Now!" Huizhong dismissed him decisively.
It was a while later when Huizhong trudged along the dusty road, beer in hand and the chest on the other.
"Your Highness, the whole court will be angry if they are to find that you have buried the Fallen Dragon's heart by yourself, let we wait until tomorrow morning and follow our custom." Zhi Peng, his personal advisor trailed behind him.
Still, the emperor progressed to walk towards the Imperial Burial Temple without a word.
Eunuch Nam spoke right after Zhi Peng, "Good news to lighten his majesty, the fire explosive has been spotted―"
"Good news?" Huizhong stopped. "What can be good on this day?"
"Leave me." He gave a low threat and the two dispersed to a far away distance where the rest of the entourage was. They were far enough to not be spotted by him, yet still able to present themselves if he called.
Only Luo Meng stayed behind, silently shadowing the emperor like any other day.
"Luo Meng, I will prepare some fire here while you go hunt for some meat," Shen Hong kicked a few paddles that he would use. He wished to dine with his father for the last time before they bid him farewell. Ahead was an hour walk which he knew would feel like a couple of minutes. Such a long tenacious walk was nothing to him on this particular day when the weight of loss rested on his shoulders. This was why he had chosen to walk than ride to the temple. He was not ready to part with his father and he would do much to prolong that from happening.
The Fallen Dragon was his best friend, confidant, mentor, leader, visionary. He was everything to him.
Memories in which his father taught him how to ride a horse, showed him how to play the gu qin and how to hunt… started flooding him.
"Xianhuag… ah Xianhuang," he sobbed dryly, frustrated that he could not let out his emotions and release the pain. All of it was trapped inside: turmoil, bitterness and angst.
They said crying made it all better but what about him who couldn't?
When Luo Meng came back, he found the emperor slumped on the ground, having a drunk conversation with himself like the Fallen Dragon was sitting next to him. Anyone who would watch, would cry in despondency for the emperor was quite pitiful.
Luo Meng coaxed him gently, "Come, we shall eat and go bury Xianhuang."
Realising that Luo Meng was back, the emperor rose up as one under the influence, but then fell on the ground sozzled.
'It is better this way,' Luo Meng thought.
That way he would not remember the pain of laying his own father to rest. And maybe that way he could forget his inability to cry and actually shed tears.
But that never happened. The emperor didn't cry.
 Xianhuang - means father who is also an emperor, but used only on emperor who has passed on.
Fuhuang - a father who is also an emperor, used on a living emperor.
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